DATUK Seri Azmin Ali seems to be ending the year with a bang.
For a while, many thought that the reported fallout between Azmin and PKR president Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim was just the usual political gossip.
But ties between Anwar and Azmin have deteriorated to such an extent that PKR insiders say it may have reached a point of no return.
Azmin, as the saying goes, may have crossed the Rubicon.
And more so especially after a photo of Azmin and former Umno minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein holidaying in Morocco with their families went viral.
Outwardly, it looked like a happy family outing. After all, the two families live in the same upper class area of Ampang, the two men have known each other for decades, they belong to the same generation of politics, and they are known as “tok dad” to their young grandchildren.
However, while Azmin and Hishammuddin looked perfectly comfortable with each other, the body language between their respective families seemed rather awkward.
Azmin’s son, Ameer Azmin, who posted the holiday photo and video on his social media platform, described it as a reunion of the two families.
But very little is normal when you are a politician, especially given the power games surrounding the pair in the last few months.
It was a vacation with a political message, a declaration that the two men are friends and allies.
The holiday affair has set tongues wagging among political circles back home.
The relationship between the Azmin and his party boss had been strained throughout the months-long PKR election during which the Azmin-Rafizi Ramli fight was widely seen as a proxy fight between Azmin and Anwar.
Azmin had pledged to work with Anwar during the PKR congress last month but things have fallen apart following their inability to compromise on key appointments to the PKR supreme council.
The two men had met a few times after the congress to discuss the appointments.
The last meeting ended on a contentious note.
A source close to Azmin said that he had allegedly told Anwar, “I will go against you in many years to come.”
Anwar had apparently shot back, saying that, “I will take you on.”
Shortly after that, Azmin left to perform the umrah with his wife and daughter.
He had tweeted from Mecca that he prayed before the Kaabah for Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad to live a long life so that he can lead the people and nation.
The tweet caused a stir because everyone could see that it was about prolonging Dr Mahathir’s control over Malaysian politics.
Anwar returned fire hours later, tweeting that, “If only some people focused more on growing the economy and less on politicking.”
It was a dig at Azmin’s Economic Affairs portfolio.
The fact is that Anwar had no intention of presiding over a supreme council that is under the control of his No 2.
Team Azmin swept all but five of the 20 supreme council posts during the party election and Anwar wanted a more balanced line-up.
As a result, only two of those appointed to the supreme council were aligned to Azmin.
Likewise, only two of the appointed state chairmen were Azmin allies, namely, Works Minister Baru Bian and Selangor Mentri Besar Amiruddin Shari.
In Kelantan, Abd Aziz Abd Kadir, a loyalist of Azmin, was replaced by Rafizi’s ally, Datuk Seri Mohd Supardi Md Noor, whom critics said, was “still an Umno member on May 9”.
The rest of the appointees were people trusted by Anwar and members of Team Rafizi.
Azmin also took exception to Anwar’s decision to retain Datuk Seri Saifuddin Nasution Ismail as secretary-general because he was alleged to have taken sides during the party polls.
But the biggest thorn of all was the appointment of Rafizi as vice-president. It was akin to Anwar telling Azmin: You defeated him but I still want him.
But honestly, who can blame Anwar?
Every leader wants people whom he can trust around him and it is obvious that Anwar no longer trusts Azmin.
Azmin is viewed as a rival for the premiership and worse, Azmin is deemed as more loyal to Dr Mahathir.
Azmin and Anwar go back a long way, and the younger man had stood by Anwar through thick and thin.
But their relationship has hit an all-time low. Some say it is much worse than the problems they saw between Azmin and Datuk Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail.
“Azmin has declared war on Anwar, they are criticising each other on social media and that is not good,” said a close confidant of Anwar.
Azmin, on his part, is playing a dangerous game sending out those signals from Morocco especially given that Hishammuddin is seen as part of the complot to hinder Anwar from becoming the next prime minister
Some imagine that the Morocco signal was also a hint of who would be the future prime minister and deputy prime minister.
But Dr Mahathir appears to have squashed that scenario because he is standing firm on the succession plan.
The Prime Minister stressed that he intends to honour the promise to hand over power to Anwar, and he said it at an important venue – the Bersatu AGM.
There is also speculation that Azmin may jump ship but why should he?
He knows he has the support in PKR after winning the deputy presidency against the odds.
It is unclear at this point how Anwar intends to tackle the thorny ties with his No 2.
Anwar loyalist Prof Datuk Dr Redzuan Othman, who met Anwar last weekend, said the big man is taking things in his stride.
“He has just returned from his own family holiday in the Philippines, so he is quite relaxed.
“He knows there are all kinds of political chatter out there about what may happen but he is confident the handover will take place as agreed upon.
“He has no problems waiting a full two years, he acknowledges that Mahathir is doing quite well,” said Dr Redzuan.
Another highly political year lies ahead.
Source : The Star