KUALA LUMPUR – Malaysia’s opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim was returned uncontested as Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) president in leadership polls, but he was dealt a blow when unofficial results released on Sunday (May 29) showed figures aligned to him had failed to secure the lion’s share of the top positions.
In what was seen as a referendum on the party’s direction, one-time Anwar protege Rafizi Ramli claimed a huge majority for the deputy presidency while other leaders aligned to him took three of the four vice-presidencies.
Although Datuk Seri Anwar publicly insists he has no favourites, it is known within the party that his pick to deputise him is party secretary-general Saifuddin Nasution Ismail.
As at press time, however, 13 out of 14 territories have been counted, with 12 going former MP Rafizi’s way.
Out of 147,334 ballots cast in the weeks-long vote, Mr Rafizi has so far secured 67,895 votes, against former minister Saifuddin’s 48,797, giving him an unassailable lead of 19,098.
Mr Rafizi had failed in a previous attempt at the deputy presidency after Pakatan Harapan (PH) shockingly took power in 2018. Although Mr Anwar made him one of two appointed vice-presidents, Mr Rafizi took a four-year sabbatical after disagreements over PKR and PH’s direction.
Former deputy premier Anwar and his camp advocate a “Big Tent” approach for the PH coalition he leads, opening the door to cooperation with other parties in a bid to deny the Umno-led Barisan Nasional (BN) a return to power in a general election that must be held in 15 months.
But former vice-president Rafizi and his slate of candidates believe that PKR, which was established 24 years ago as a reformist party, must stick to its principles rather than compromise, as it would dilute their appeal to voters.
Selangor Menteri Besar Amirudin Shari leads the vice-president hopefuls and is the only one of the four winners who campaigned alongside Datuk Seri Saifuddin.
However, sources close to Datuk Seri Amirudin’s campaign have told The Straits Times that he has taken a neutral stance between the two camps, merely wanting to cement his position as chief minister of Malaysia’s richest state.
Several other Anwar allies also lost their respective races, including his political secretary Farhash Mubarak, who cried foul over the voting process after Mr Amirudin clinched Gombak division chief, expressing his “doubts about the transparency and truthfulness of the results issued”.
“We have concrete evidence and documentation to state our protest… against the results of the physical and online votes for the Gombak division as it is illogical,” he said.