Unopposed win as PKR president shows Anwar still holds court, say analysts

KUALA LUMPUR: Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim’s re-election as PKR president without contest has given a strong signal that the 75-year-old veteran is still very much needed to steer the party into the 15th general election (GE15), according to political analysts.

Despite calls from outside the party for Anwar to relinquish the post following the dismal performances of PKR and Pakatan Harapan in the Melaka and Johor state elections, it is clear that PKR grassroots still look up to his credibility and leadership.

Anaysts said Anwar’s victory was expected, as apart from acting as a unifying agent for Pakatan's component parties in his capacity as the coalition’s chairman, the Cherok Tok Kun, Bukit Mertajam-born politician also had no peers in PKR.

Senior lecturer Dr Che Hamdan Che Mohd Razal said Anwar’s strong influence in PKR had enabled him to continue leading the party until 2025.

"Anwar’s election as president without contest was expected although going by current political challenges, he has failed to provide the momentum for PKR to gain support,” said Che Hamdan, who is with the Administrative Science and Policy Studies Faculty of Universiti Teknologi Mara (UiTM) Raub Campus in Pahang.

"To me, the lack of challengers shows that they want to maintain the status quo and dependence on Anwar is still high,” he told Bernama.

On April 12, PKR secretary-general Datuk Seri Saifuddin Nasution Ismail announced that Anwar, who is also Port Dickson MP, had been returned unopposed as party president for the 2022-2025 term in the 2022 PKR election.

Assoc Prof Dr Mohd Izani Mohd Zain is of the view that party members are banking on Anwar to not only bring PKR but also Pakatan to the next level.

"Anwar’s role is still needed by PKR and PH to face GE15, and they are placing high hopes on him. As such, his victory for the top post shows his credibility to continue leading PKR, apart from the fact that there are no candidates capable of replacing him,” said the senior lecturer of Universiti Putra Malaysia’s (UPM) Human Ecology Faculty.

Apart from the top post, this year’s PKR polls have also attracted analysts’ attention via the straight fight for the post of deputy president between former vice-president Rafizi Ramli and Saifuddin, and the crowded field of 18 candidates for the vice-presidency.

On the anticipated close fight for the number two post between the two heavyweights, Che Hamdan said they were evenly matched in terms of credibility and popularity within PKR.

"But they cater to two different segments, with Rafizi being more popular among youths in the party while Saifuddin is seen as having captured the hearts of the intermediate group who appreciate his effort in uniting PKR after Pakatan was toppled through the betrayal of previous leaders.

"Rafizi’s chances are bright. However, his enthusiasm (to win) may backfire as his perceived running away from the (party) struggle after his defeat in the last election has created disappointment among PKR members,” he added.

To Mohd Izani, a Saifuddin victory would be a signal that delegates are opting for a strong partnership between Anwar and Saifuddin as they are viewed as having a lot of similarities, while a Rafizi win would mean delegates want PKR to make drastic changes.

The contest for the deputy president’s post for the 2022-2025 term is the second for Rafizi, as the former Pandan MP had lost to Datuk Seri Mohamed Azmin Ali in his first attempt in 2018.

Both analysts are of the view that the PKR election is a good reflection of democracy as more candidates are vying for the four posts of vice-president.

Che Hamdan said while this was a positive development for grooming back-up leaders, a bruising contest might create factions and force the party to spend time closing ranks after the internal polls, thus affecting its preparations for GE15.

This view was shared by Mohd Izani, who said the high number of candidates for the third biggest post might indicate the existence of an internal crisis.

The official announcement of the winners for the posts of president, deputy president and vice-president will be made on June 26 at the PKR annual national congress while the results for the women’s wing chief and Youth chief contests will be announced on June 24 at their respective congresses. - Bernama

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