Sunday, 30 March 2008

Anwar Ibrahim: Be a "King-Maker" Until the Opposition Coalition Is A Force of Its Own


Anwar Ibrahim has single-handedly helped change the political landscape of the country.

However, the Opposition Coalition which Anwar Ibrahim had work so hard to bring about, is still a work-in-progress. These are still honey-moon days. We will know how the marriage will work when the realities of government come into play in the months to come. So far all the right buttons are being pushed by all parties concerned.

It was unthinkable in recent memory that DAP and PAS could come together to be part of a government.

It must be said that it is the charisma of the man himself who had achieved what seems almost unachievable in the politics of the Opposition. Anwar is a politician who was denied the reigns of power by those who held power; who was personally humiliated in public and incarcerated by his own colleagues in government. It was by sheer force of self discipline and moral strength that he had survived this far and be what he is today.

Like a phoenix rising from the ashes, he came back hard and strong to choose to be the voice of those who were forced into silence on the many misdeeds of the UMO-led Government for more than 30 years.

Anwar may have skeletons in his cupboard, but as of now, it is of little consequence. Many Malaysians see the better good of what he had done to confront the alleged arrogance of the ruling parties in Government.

Anwar's standing today in the eyes of many Malaysians is that one of Prime Ministership material. But his critics question whether this is a different Anwar Ibrahim as the one who was in UMNO. That question still need to be answered. By all indications, and by his actions and by his words, Anwar has moved away from the man he was when he was in UMNO.

Come this April when he is eligible to stand for election, many is asking whether he should re-enter formally into the arena of Malaysian politics.
That is, should Anwar change his current status?

Today, Anwar is seen as a "kingmaker." DAP and PAS will grudgingly listen to him. PKR which he leads by default holds the middle ground between DAP and PAS.

It is our view that Anwar is still sorely needed to nurture the infant coalition of opposition parties. If this coalition of opposition parties becomes a sustainable and effective entity in the future, that will be the lasting legacy of Anwar Ibrahim the politician. And history will judge him well and he will have earned a respectable place in history.

The coalition of opposition parties has its work cut out against the well-oiled machinery of the BN despite the latter's disastrous outing in the election. Let's face it. BN has the experience and the political cunning to recover from its losses.

Glaringly there is no other person at present who could replace Anwar or has the political instincts, charisma and influence to shape the political landscape. To start with, the coalition of opposition parties have a mountain to climb still.

There are three concerns which the coalition opposition parties must address to remain viable into the future:

a) Coalesce the different interests and ideology of DAP, PAS and PKR, and others who might join later into an integrated and sustainable political force against the BN coalition.

b) Nurture second-level of leaders to lead into the future; those who can command the respect of the followers of DAP, PAS and PKR. For instance, having a Chinese leader from DAP who has the confidence and trust of PAS and PKR leaders and followers; likewise, a Malay leader who has the full confidence and trust of DAP and PKR; or an Indian leader from PKR who has the full confidence and trust of DAP and PAS.
At present, there is none who has demonstrated that capacity.

c) Develop a core political mandate or ideology of the coalition, with the aim of neutralising the dissonant voices in each of the three parties.

We believe only Anwar, in his present status as a "kingmaker" without the baggage of a formally elected politician, is able to bring about these objectives into fruition.

Can Anwar be as effective to bring about the above when he is an Opposition backbencher or as a future Prime Minister? We have our doubts.

Only Anwar Ibrahim can answer that question.
-Malaysian Unplug


Read HERE in Malaysian-Insider

Anwar Ibrahim in audience

".. In less than a month, Anwar Ibrahim’s ban from politics will be over. But the face of new Malaysia will be in no hurry to push aside a comrade from Parti Keadilan Rakyat, contest a by-election and take that place in Parliament as the opposition leader.

He does not need to take that path.

In the eyes of the 52% of West Malaysians who voted for the opposition, he is the man who has ushered in a more promising future for the country. The architect who is forcing DAP and PAS to junk their narrow philosophies. The next Prime Minister.

In the eyes of many of those who voted for Barisan Nasional, there is ambivalence mixed with fear and grudging respect for a man who was on the cusp of the premiership when he was sacked in 1998.

Anwar Ibrahim already has the stature of a leader and carries the hopes of many, even without a position in Parliament. In the weeks since March 8, he has given more interviews to local and international media organisations than all members of the Cabinet put together. They all want to know his vision for Malaysia. And he has not disappointed, adding layers of information to the spine of a Malaysian Economic Agenda with every interview.

As a sign of times, he has also been visited by corporate figures such as Berjaya’s Tan Sri Vincent Tan and former editors who were part of the Mahathir media machine which tore Anwar to shreds during his court trials for corruption and sodomy.

They are hedging their bets, believing like many that it is only a question of when and not whether Anwar will return to power. They know that the Anwar of Umno owned a vindictive and ruthless streak. They are hoping that the new Anwar may be slower to exact revenge.

He did show a more forgiving side in a recent interview with The Sun. He said,

“I have no malice. You know, sometimes I laugh at these people. This is the quality of people and they think they are great.

I have no personal agenda. They have. Some of them are scared. Dead scared! They came to see me saying, we are sorry, but were forced to do this and do that. In a way it is good - not that it is fair for them to put me in prison and treat me that way… but it is a good experience. And if people make mistakes and are remorseful, we should give them a chance. I always believe that."
But his second coming as a politician will not amount to anything if the opposition alliance doesn’t ride on the momentum and make lasting changes to the political environment.

As Abdullah Ahmad Badawi found out, Malaysians will be willing to live on words and sunshine for only so long. Once the honeymoon period is over, they will demand performance and accountability.

That could explain why Anwar has been spending much time the past week speaking to leaders of DAP and PAS about a formal alliance, trying to forge a common platform which would be acceptable to all Malaysians.

The alliance is drawing up some points which will cover constitutional guarantees, the Malaysian Economic Agenda, issues of tolerance and the dominance of one race.

Not surprising then, that the PKR-DAP-PAS are sounding like reformers, leaving the politicians of Barisan Nasional, especially Umno, sounding like people caught in a time warp. There is little doubt that Anwar is in firm control of the alliance. Husam Musa may be charismatic but he ranks a distant second to Anwar in the ability to articulate the vision for the country.

This control was evident in the first few days of Lim Guan Eng’s term as the Chief Minister of Penang. He spoke about dismantling the New Economic Policy and set off a maelstrom. Anwar went to his rescue but also urged him to choose his words carefully. When Anwar accompanied Selangor Mentri Besar Khalid Ibrahim to the site where a temple was demolished in Kampung Jawa, his authority was clear.

I told Khalid you better deal with this immediately. In two weeks, get it done. Give them their land and pay compensation to rebuild their temple. Of course they will demand for this and that. That's normal, but we draw the line,” he said in the interview with The Sun.

It is with this sense of authority that he has started talking to Umno division heads. As someone who can make things happen, as the leader of an alliance that has shaken BN to the core.

He is no longer appealing for a second hearing from the party warlords or trying to convince them that he spent 6 years in jail because of trumped-up charges. He has the aura of power, and Umno warlords have always been willing to listen to power.

Anwar is trying to dispel the fears they are bound to have over the Malaysian Economic Agenda, persuade them that the sacred NEP has not really benefitted them. This is an offensive move. There is some confusion about the policy outside urban centres. Many Malays think that NEP = Malay special rights. This is incorrect.

The special privileges are guaranteed under article 153 of the Constitution. The NEP was created by the ruling coalition after the race riots of 1969 to redress some of the imbalances in Malaysian society. What Anwar is trying to do is make clear to Umno warlords that he is not a traitor to the race, he is not doing away with Malay rights.

This pitch makes it more palatable for Umno MPs to crossover and blunts a future assault by Abdullah and others on Anwar selling out the race. Not that such an attack is on the horizon, not given the internal problems facing Abdullah and Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s reluctance to take on his nemesis.

Anwar is enjoying the view that he is emerging as a puppet master within Umno. With a full-blown fight to the party presidency ready to erupt, there will be moves to enlist his support or his counsel. Others may be tempted to change political stripes. Not a bad situation for someone who was dumped from the party and consigned to a historical footnote.

When Parliament sits in May, Anwar will watch the debate and miss the opportunity to skewer ministers and deputy ministers. But that will be a small price to pay for staying above the fray and making sure that his political experiment grows from strength to strength. After all in the eyes of many Malaysians, he is their leader.

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