KUALA LUMPUR,Mar 22 – The reformist PKR may have to rethink its strategies to move forward, after seeing several of its MPs defect in support of Perikatan Nasional, said political scientists.
Such strategies include looking for new Malay political partners to expand the party’s support base and promoting its young leaders to bigger roles.
Universiti Putra Malaysia’s Prof Jayum Anak Jawan told The Vibes that the defections could indicate frustration among members that the party is not heading anywhere.
He believes PKR may have reached its apex in terms of electoral performance, adding that the party has achieved its goal of securing justice for president Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim.
“In political party theory, one (party) that is set up for a purpose is doomed to disintegrate when the basic objective has been achieved.
“When PKR was formed, it was basically to seek justice for its supreme leader, who was deemed to have been wronged by the political system. So, when he was discharged and also pardoned, that objective was fully achieved.”
PKR was formed as Keadilan on the back of Anwar’s sacking from Umno and as deputy prime minister in 1998. The party’s founding members sought justice following the incarceration of their de facto leader.
After his second imprisonment in February 2015, Anwar was granted a royal pardon on May 16, 2018, just a week after Pakatan Harapan secured federal power.
On the electoral front, Jayum said PKR is unlikely to gain any more seats in the 15th general election than the 47 it did in 2018 – its best-ever performance – having won all the Malay-majority constituencies it reasonably can.
“Most of these seats are Malay-majority or have (a) huge (proportion of) Malay voters, where the winning edge comes from the presence of a big number of the non-Malay electorate.”
While drawing up new strategies may be necessary to take the party to the next level, he said, it will not come easy for PKR.
“It may not be easy to compromise all the sections that came together, to forge a new, common goal among these diverse groups.”
He was asked to comment on the recent defections of Datuk Xavier Jayakumar (Kuala Langat MP), Larry Sng (Julau) and Steven Choong (Tebrau), as well as speculation that more will follow suit, and how this will affect PKR moving forward.
Federal Territories Minister Tan Sri Annuar Musa has said up to eight more opposition lawmakers could soon switch allegiance to PN.
On speculation that the government is threatening action through enforcement agencies against opposition MPs if they do not throw their support behind Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin, Jayum said a “clean” person would not feel threatened.
He added that one who is honest, and has high integrity and clear principles would not be enticed by whatever is offered to them.
“A person who has a skeleton in his or her cupboard will, figuratively speaking, run helter-skelter upon hearing a thunder roar, when the rain and tornado may not necessarily follow later.”
Time for generational shift
University of Tasmania Asia Institute’s Prof James Chin said there needs to be a generational shift in PKR, adding that the time is ripe for powers to be pushed down.
While he acknowledged that it would be impossible to change the entire top leadership, young blood such as Fahmi Fadzil, Rafizi Ramli, Nurul Izzah Anwar and Akmal Nasir should be given more responsibility.
“Even DAP is going through changes soon, with Lim Guan Eng to relinquish his position as secretary-general and a younger leader taking over. PKR needs something like that, too.
“And if you look at the government’s side, probably the most popular figure at the moment is Khairy Jamaluddin, also from the new generation. Currently, there is a mismatch, where political powers are being held by older people.”
He believes that even if Anwar makes way for younger leaders, it will not be at the expense of grassroots support, saying they will accept change if it means the current government is displaced.
Malay partner necessary for rural support
While there is nothing much PKR can do to stop members from leaving, said Universiti Utara Malaysia’s Prof Mohd Azizuddin Mohd Sani, the party has to look for new strategies to ensure its victory in GE15.
Chiefly, he said, the party needs to cooperate with either Umno or PAS to win rural Malay seats, which are traditionally harder for PKR to secure.
“PKR’s rural support is quite limited. So, it needs a partner that can offer this, and the only reliable ones are Umno and PAS. Its Pakatan Harapan ally, Amanah, while Malay-based, is not strong enough.
“In fact, I believe all this talk about working with Umno now is because PKR can itself sense that it won’t win rural areas without a Malay party’s support.”
The only challenge is to get grassroots backing for any planned political cooperation, he said. – The Vibes