DATUK Seri Anwar Ibrahim seemed to be in a sanguine mood when he hosted a thanksgiving dinner in Port Dickson for those who had managed his recent by-election campaign.
He was the perfect host, but behind the broad smile was a rather worried man.
The incoming PKR president had been inundated with reports about the trouble in Sarawak’s Julau division, where the election result was suspended on allegations of election tampering.
“He is very concerned, he wants to know what exactly happened,” said his longtime friend and election expert Prof Datuk Dr Redzuan Othman, who was at the dinner.
Julau has been mired in controversy since its membership shot up overnight from 603 to about 13,000.
In his speech at the Port Dickson dinner, Anwar spoke quite a bit about Julau, stressing that he would not tolerate election wrongdoing.
But the point is that everything that should not happen in an election apparently happened in the PKR polls, from allegations of phantom voters and tampered voting to money politics and altercations.
The image of the party is badly bruised and PKR leaders have lost the moral high ground to criticise others for election fraud.
It is understood that a re-election will be called for Julau on Wednesday, which may change the eventual polls outcome. But as of press time, incumbent deputy president Datuk Seri Azmin Ali looks set to retain his post in the messiest election in PKR history. His team has made a near clean sweep of the election.
Apart from defeating Rafizi Ramli, Azmin’s team is likely to win four of the five vice-president posts and the leadership of the Women and Youth wing.
Nurul Izzah Anwar was the sole Rafizi ally who won in the vice-president race. The joke is that she is a “great fisherman” as she managed to “catch fish” from both camps.
Haniza Talha, who is with Azmin, is likely to beat Fuziah Salleh to lead the Women’s wing.
Those aligned to Azmin also swept all but five of the 20 supreme council posts.
Amiruddin Shari, an Azmin protege who replaced the latter as Selangor Mentri Besar, won the most votes in the supreme council contest.
But, said an aide of Azmin, it has been a hard-fought victory because “all the bullets were coming at him”.
Anwar, who was said to have preferred Rafizi as his deputy, will preside over a team aligned to Azmin.
PKR is split down the middle going by the breakdown of votes between the Azmin and Rafizi camps.
The Azmin-Rafizi split had its origins in the 2014 party election and worsened over the years.
After what happened in the last two months of staggered voting, the rift will probably grow more bitter than better.
The two nemeses smile and make small talk in public but away from the limelight, their respective supporters have only vile things to say about each other.
Despite their win, the Azmin camp is still seething that the suspension of results and re-election in several divisions were made at the behest of the Rafizi camp.
From the very start, there were claims of powerful hidden hands trying to kill off Azmin in the polls.
Those in the Azmin camp claimed they would have won more impressively if the election had been conducted fairly. Ironically, the Rafizi camp is also saying the same thing.
Despite the hype over the 13,000 membership list, barely 2,000 turned out to vote in Julau.
The unofficial results for Julau showed that Rafizi won 1,140 votes against only 247 by Azmin.
But Rafizi’s contention is that he would have secured 3,000 votes if not for the tampering. And that is what he hopes to get when Julau goes for a re-election on Wednesday.
Port Klang assemblyman and supreme council member Azmizam Zaman Huri, who was posted in Julau as an observer, said there was shock all round when it was announced that the system had been hacked and the election suspended.
“Everything went so smoothly, the election staff were professional and there were no problems among the voters,” he said.
The latest statement by Anwar seems to suggest that he wants everyone to move on and get ready for the party congress.
Rafizi had started his campaign on an ambitious note to make Anwar the next prime minister, while painting Azmin as being too close to Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad.
His rallying cry resonated with the party grassroots and he took the lead in the early stages of the contest as the party wanted to see Anwar become the next prime minister.
But the contest took a turn after Anwar won the Port Dickson by-election. It became clear to the party rank and file that Anwar was on the way to the premiership, no matter who became the deputy president.
That was when the groundswell for Azmin began, especially in Selangor, where he has an excellent track record. He began to pull ahead, increasing his lead even in Sarawak, where Rafizi was said to enjoy a lot of support.
Azmin was initially criticised for not being more aggressive in his campaign – his campaign slogan was Kekal dan Tenang (maintain the status quo and keep calm).
He was also unapologetic about his warm ties with Dr Mahathir.
When he accompanied the Prime Minister to Japan recently, he had tweeted extensively about the elder man being conferred Japan’s highest award.
He was also seen holding Tun Dr Siti Hasmah Mohd Ali’s hand as he posed with the first couple.
It is unlikely that he would do the same thing with the First Lady when Anwar becomes prime minister.
Not everyone in the Azmin team agreed with his statesman-style of campaigning but in hindsight, he has done the right thing.
He has held on to his No.2 post without resorting to mudslinging or too much personal damage.
Some say that in PKR, the deputy president post is largely symbolic and the real power lies with the president and political bureau.
Others beg to differ. If the president of PKR, the biggest party in Pakatan Harapan, can lay claim to the premiership, then its deputy president is certainly seen as a future prime minister.
Dr Redzuan has insisted that Anwar needs both Azmin and Rafizi in his journey forward.
“Anwar is a seasoned politician, he can work with anybody. On the other hand, Azmin is a refined person. He is always respectful when he is with Anwar,” said Dr Redzuan.
And as they say, the people have spoken and the party has to move on.