PKR deputy president Mohamed Azmin Ali’s quick climb in the government may not sit well with the party’s more senior leaders, including its de facto leader Anwar Ibrahim, says an academic. Political analyst Kamarul Zaman Yusoff said Azmin, who was appointed to the powerful portfolio of economic affairs under the Prime Minister’s Department, could face a challenge to his party post at the coming PKR congress.
He said Anwar could be going for the president’s post in an attempt to consolidate his position in PKR, as he prepares to take over the government from Dr Mahathir Mohamad, as promised to him before the general election last May.
The PKR president’s post is now occupied by Anwar’s wife Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail. Anwar, meanwhile, has been the de facto leader, a post which does not exist in the PKR constitution.
Kamarul said although Azmin was well placed to pose a challenge to Anwar for the president’s post, the former Selangor menteri besar was aware of the repercussions.
“He will be seen as the bad guy if he does this. As it is, he is influential among the grassroots, so it’s better to bide his time than rock the boat,” Kamarul told FMT.
He said Azmin’s bigger problem now is to ensure he remains the party’s number two if challenged at the coming party polls.
“It’s not clear who will be the challenger, but it is most likely a senior leader who is very loyal to Anwar,” he said.
“It’s going to be a close fight, Azmin is a heading a very powerful and important ministry, some of those alligned to him like Zuraida Kamarudin and Amirudin Shari also hold important posts,” he said.
Zuraida is the housing and local government minister, while Amirudin is the Selangor menteri besar.
Kamarul said Azmin’s challenger would likely have the backing of Anwar.
But Kamarul said Azmin’s advantage is that the position he holds is seen as an endorsement from Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad.
“Furthermore, certain influential personalities within Mahathir’s circle are known to be not fond of Anwar, like Daim Zainuddin and Zahid Mat Arip,” said Kamarul.
There is a systematic plan to scuttle Mohamed Azmin Ali’s rise at the federal level, warns a source close to the ruling coalition, adding that the former Selangor menteri besar is now in his strongest political position after years in the wilderness. The source said with PKR elections due in August, Azmin’s “political enemies” were “working overtime” to ensure he was checked.
“This is part of Malay politics. Every time the party elections near, the top leaders will be busy rebutting allegations, many of them personal,” the source told FMT.
The PKR elections are being held for the first time since the party and its partners in Pakatan Harapan won the May 9 polls.
This time around, with Azmin seen holding a senior post in the federal government, the source said he is likely to be on the receiving end of “poisonous claims” more than any other PKR leader.
The source said recent allegations that Azmin and his wife had stashed away hundreds of millions of ringgit overseas were only part of a larger plan to “stop Azmin’s meteoric rise”, from just a party leader in 2014 to what has been described as a Cabinet post “second only to the prime minister”.
It said Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s trust in Azmin, coupled with the years of friendship despite being in different political camps, was not going down well with Azmin’s enemies.
“When Tun extracted him out of the state, it was a signal of Azmin’s importance to the present government.
“His economic affairs portfolio is no doubt at the same level of seat once occupied by Mahathir’s most trusted confidante,” he said, in an apparent reference to Daim Zainuddin, who now heads the government’s top advisory team, the Council of Eminent Persons.
Azmin, 53, was the political secretary to Anwar Ibrahim before the latter’s dramatic sacking in 1998. Since then, he has remained loyal to Anwar and his PKR party while also maintaining a personal relationship with Mahathir.
Anwar’s sacking then had to do with allegations of immorality and abuse of power, claims that were first made through what were known as “poison pen letters”. Such anonymous letters were the norm two decades ago, normally distributed to Umno delegates at divisional meetings and general assemblies.The source said the culture of character assassination that once pervaded Umno is also abound in current ruling parties, adding that it was a bane of Malay politics and was blocking good talents from taking over the leadership.
“But now the blog has taken over the role of the poison pen letter, and in a more venomous way due to its wide and easy reach,” said the source. – FMT