PETALING JAYA: A crisis over the PKR candidate list in the Klang Valley is threatening to boil over amid pressure for an urgent meeting between party president Datuk Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail and her deputy Datuk Seri Azmin Ali.
There are rumblings within the ranks aligned to the caretaker Selangor Mentri Besar after at least eight names proposed by him were chopped from the candidate list a day before Pakatan Harapan is due to unveil its Selangor candidates at a gathering in Sungai Besar.
The four-eyed meeting had yet to take place at press time, as Azmin has been up north since Friday.
His last programme was at 10pm in Nibong Tebal and he is only due to fly back today.
The party crisis bubbled to the surface after at least eight names put forward by Azmin were dropped or rejected by Dr Wan Azizah.
The incumbents dropped include MPs Tian Chua (Batu) and Datuk Dr Tan Kee Kwong (Wangsa Maju). The assemblymen dropped were Yaakob Sapari (Kota Anggerik), Hanizah Mohd Talha (Taman Medan) and Gan Pei Nie (Rawang).
Three other names put up by Azmin were also reportedly rejected, including his press aide Hilman Idham, who was proposed for the Gombak Setia state seat, and trusted aide Khalid Jaafar, proposed for the Hulu Selangor parliamentary seat.
Another Azmin ally, Mohd Razlan Jalaluddin, the coordinator for Kota Damansara, was also rejected.
Chua, who is also PKR vice-president, told The Star that the candidate list is not about building power bases, but should be about building the party and moving assemblymen to the national level as MPs so their experience can be harnessed.
“It should not be about trying to purge. It is about generation building for the party’s future,” he said.
Chua denied issuing any ultimatum to Dr Wan Azizah on the choice of candidates, but admitted that he had proposed a plan that would see assemblymen moving into parliamentary seats to help build PKR’s national image.
He said the party would suffer if the leadership followed the wishes of only one side.
Chua had earlier held a press conference that was widely seen as a veiled warning to the party leadership to be cautious “not to drop or put people in because of lobbying” from specific factions.
Although he did not name anyone, the perception was that he was referring to fellow vice-president Rafizi Ramli, who is seen as the hidden hand behind Dr Wan Azizah.
Chua urged his president, as well as Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim, to have the strength to withstand such lobbying so that the party would stay united in contesting the general election.
A delegation led by PKR Wanita chief Zuraidah Kamaruddin met Dr Wan Azizah at her residence in Segambut, which PKR circles refer to as “Istana Segambut”, at 8am to discuss the matter.
It included Gan, Hanizah and PJ Selatan MP Hee Loy Sian, personalities with whom Dr Wan Azizah has a good relationship.
Party sources said Zuraidah had appealed to Dr Wan Azizah to rethink the candidate list.
But as the day progressed, the rift appeared to widen.
Otai Reformasi, a veterans group fiercely loyal to Anwar, issued a statement warning the “cartel” – presumably those associated with Azmin and Zuraidah – not to pressure the president.
Sinar Harian also reported that Dr Wan Azizah abruptly left a PKR event in Seberang Jaya, Penang, while Azmin was still on stage.
She reportedly said she had to rush back to Kuala Lumpur to sign the watikah (letters of authorisation) for candidates.
The tug of war over candidates is a continuation of the long-running rivalry between the two camps in PKR – one led by Azmin and the other by Rafizi, who is aligned with Dr Wan Azizah.
It is also seen as a prelude to the party polls expected to take place after the general election.
Rafizi, who is not eligible to contest in GE14, is perceived as trying to undermine the influence that Azmin has over the party.
The perception is that he is also trying to put his ally Dr Fahmi Ngah to contest the Kota Anggerik seat with the aim of projecting him as a possible mentri besar candidate.
Dr Fahmi is chief executive officer of the Selangor Economic Adviser’s Office and Anwar’s former chief of staff.
The proposal to put party treasurer Datin Paduka Tan Yee Kew in Wangsa Maju was also seen as a Rafizi-inspired move because Yee Kew is an ally of his.
Asked if he was hopeful for a solution from the pending Azmin-Wan Azizah meeting, Chua said the priority should be about building the party rather than strengthening one camp against the other.
“They can meet, but they must be open-minded and not threaten each other,” said Chua.
In Bukit Mertajam, Azmin said the process of choosing election candidates within the party was “transparent”.
He denied having sent a list of his own preferred candidates, which was said to have been rejected by Dr Wan Azizah.
“I did not submit any list. The names are done at state level based on names proposed by branches.
“The state level will then evaluate and submit the list to its candidates’ committee to decide,” he said after a meet-the-people session at the PKR Seberang Jaya operation centre in Jalan Baru yesterday.
Asked about the Selangor candidate list, Azmin said he did not want to speculate as the discussion was still ongoing.
“There is no final decision yet,” he said, adding that the party would confirm the list by tomorrow.