One man must be very worried over how his brainchild – Pakatan Rakyat – is beginning to unravel before his very eyes.
Pakatan Rakyat leader Anwar Ibrahim needs a united coalition, committed to his ideals now more than ever before because he is facing the biggest game changer of his career.
On February 10, the Federal Court will deliver its verdict in his Sodomy 2 appeal but the coalition he heads simply can’t see eye to eye.
Ever since August last year when PAS rebuffed his request to support his wife Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail for the Selangor chief minister post, he has been watching helplessly how PAS has grown steadily in its rebellion.
Not only does PAS president Abdul Hadi Awang refuses to attend Pakatan leadership council meetings, making it largely irrelevant, the clerics in the party have been opposing one issue after another that the DAP is fighting for.
The latest is the rejection by Hadi and his clerics on local government elections, a cherished dream of the DAP which had promised its Chinese supporters it will organise one soon.
Hadi’s view is that local government elections were banned in the early 1960s because of its potential to cause racial riots and that the party was therefore against it.
Anwar desires a united Pakatan, at least on the face of it, and has been pushing for a president’s council meeting before February 10 but he has been frustrated by the clerics in PAS.
Until now he has failed to get Abdul Hadi to attend. Without his presence, the DAP has vowed not to attend, thus hamstringing Anwar.
Anwar is understandably apprehensive at PAS’ refusal to talk with DAP to settle their grouses because he has a lot to lose if he is found guilty and sentenced to jail.
Not only will he lose his Permatang Pauh MP seat as well as his position as Opposition Leader in Parliament, his political career will be over.
Pakatan, or what is left of it, has to choose a new leader acceptable to all three partners equally and one strong contender will be Hadi himself. Besides that, Pakatan is Anwar’s baby and he wants to leave behind a united and workable coalition able to compete with the Barisan Nasional and not a truncated coalition minus PAS, its biggest Malay partner.
He also wants Pakatan to campaign for him and his causes as it did during Sodomy One.
Hadi, however, has chosen a brave course in his opposition to DAP and to Anwar because there is strong opposition to him within his own party. He has to contend with the so called liberals or Erdogans who support Anwar, like deputy president Mohamed Sabu, and by extension they also support the DAP and Pakatan itself.
Hadi has to fight these liberals, or as one PAS leader put it, with “enemies within” and not just the DAP.
“It’s a war of attrition in PAS between the clerics and the liberals for control of PAS and to set directions for the party,” noted a leader, who said key allies of Hadi in PAS include secretary-general Mustafa Ali and deputy spiritual leader Haron Din and influential clerics like Nik Aziz Nik Mat’s son Nik Abduh.
Hadi’s surprising statement linking local elections to the possibility of racial tension came as a big blow to the DAP although PAS had supported local elections, albeit silently before.
“We were caught by surprise when Hadi objected (to local government elections) in such strong terms,” said a DAP MP who declined to be named.
“That’s when I realised that it is over for us and PAS,” he said.
It would appear that the PAS clerics objected to local government elections because the DAP is strongly opposed to the implementation of the hudud law in Kelantan.
“It is a tit for tat kind of situation,” said a political observer adding it makes sense for now but the opposition to Hadi and the clerics is brewing and have to be overcome, sooner or later.
As Lim Kit Siang, the DAP adviser once said, Pakatan might end up as a one-term wonder.
True to his words, Pakatan is being pulled and pushed in different ways. It is a wonder how it can hold together under such stress.
Anecdotal evidence suggests that Pakatan parties are bleeding voter support because of their fundamental disagreement and their fightings.
Voters from across the racial divide see the infighting as a bane to them. They expected the coalition they voted for to get down to working for them, not fighting each other incessantly.
Anwar’s personal issues have been framed as coalition issues but the clerics in PAS are reluctant to shoulder him any longer.
Larger issues are gripping both parties. PAS wants to return to its Islamic roots while the DAP is stuck with its secular objectives, leaving little room for cooperation between the two dissimilar political parties.
The loser in this fallout must surely be Anwar.