Anwar says “the more the merrier” of crowded PD polls, which see one disqualified and seven in the race, including his ex-aide Saiful who was responsible for his jail time.
PKR president-elect Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim today said he welcomes the six other rivals in the fight to win the Port Dickson parliamentary seat.
“I suppose I didn’t see it coming but I was told that (my rivals) could be 6, 7 or even 8. It’s okay, the more the merrier,” he told a press conference at the nomination centre in Port Dickson.
Earlier, the Election Commission (EC) announced that Anwar will be facing six other candidates, including Saiful Bukhari Azlan, the person responsible for his jail time.
In 2008, Saiful accused Anwar of sodomising him in an apartment in Damansara. Following a series of court trials and appeals, Anwar was found guilty by the Federal Court and subsequently sentenced to five years’ jail in February 2015.
In response to Saiful’s candidacy, Anwar said his former aide is free to do as he pleases, including “using” the duo’s history to rake in votes during the 14-day campaign period.
“That is up to him, I don’t want to meddle in his affair. I just want to focus on my work here in Port Dickson and I think Pakatan’s leadership is taking the same stance,” he said.
Earlier during the official announcement, Anwar’s supporters who were present at Majlis Perbandaran Port Dickson hall had publicly expressed their disapproval against Saiful’s candidacy.
The group let out huge boo’s each time Saiful’s name was mentioned by returning officer Khairy Maamor.
Some even shouted: “Tak tahu malu kah” (Have you have no shame?).
“I will advise them (my supporters) of course but you must take into account the malicious efforts in his part in the past.
“For me to forgive him and move on…easier said than done. We have to appreciate the concerns of many who were deeply hurt and suffered in the process,” he said.
Aside from Saiful, Anwar will also face PAS’ Mohd Nazari Mokhtar, Tan Sri Isa Samad, Stevie Chan Keng Leong, Kan Chee Yuen and Lau Seck Yan.
The EC has set the early polling date on October 9 and polling day on October 13.
By 8.15am this morning, PKR supporters already outnumbered the rest with some 300 present in the nomination centre. PKR deputy president Azmin Ali and Selangor Menteri Besar Amirudin Shaari were among the party leaders at the venue.
Anwar’s arrival 30 minutes later was heralded by chants of reformasi from some 1,000 supporters. He was accompanied by DAP secretary-general Lim Guan Eng.
As the entourage marched towards the building, there was a parade of lion dances in various colours.
At 9.15am, Saiful entered the nomination centre. The situation remained peaceful despite he sitting next to Anwar’s team.
Earlier, Saiful rubbished speculations that he is contesting due to the influence of those who wished to see Anwar fail.
“Not at all. This decision was made by my family and I. No external influence whatsoever.
“I am not a political party member. I just want to be an MP,” he said.
He also said his decision to contest is not about a personal vendetta against Anwar.
He pledged not to bring up the sodomy case during campaigning.
Meanwhile, former Umno minister Zainuddin Maidin tweeted that when someone as “weak” as Saiful is willing to challenge Anwar in PD, it is a blow to Umno’s dignity for not fielding a candidate.
He said this is because Umno is hoping for “sympathy” from Anwar when he becomes the prime minister.
At 9.35am, as Anwar was walking towards his seat after submitting his nomination form, Saiful stood up to greet him. The two shook hands.
Later, Saiful submitted his papers and joined independent candidates Isa Samad and Stevie whereas Anwar is seated at a different table.
Saiful said it felt good to shake hands with Anwar, adding that the sodomy case was in the past and that the both of them were mature enough to be cordial with one another.
“It has been a long time (since we met). It feels good. We are mature enough in this new democratic era; we just said ‘Hi’,” Saiful said.
He, however, disagreed with the method in which the seat was vacated for Anwar.
He said it was unacceptable that Anwar was willing to engineer an election just to get one step closer to become prime minister.
“We need a stable government. We cannot have political uncertainty. Someone engineering an election to become prime minister is not good,” he said.
He also said that he was not funded by anyone to contest in the by-election, and that he would announce his campaign pledges and manifesto in the coming days.
As for his campaign theme, he said it would be “move forward, ensure stability”.
The nomination process ended at 10am, with a total of eight candidates having submitted their papers.
The eight candidates are PKR president-elect Anwar Ibrahim, PAS’ Mohd Nazari Mokhtar, former Negeri Sembilan menteri besar Isa Abdul Samad, who is contesting as an independent, social media personality Stevie Chan Keong Leong (independent), trainer and consultant for company business transformation Kan Chee Yuen (independent), educationist Lau Seck Yan (independent), Mohd Saiful Bukhari Azlan (independent) and A Rajendra (independent).
At 11am, it was announced that A Rajendra had been disqualified, leaving seven in the race for the PD seat.
On the second occasion that Anwar and Saiful shook hands, which was while waiting for the official EC announcement, Saiful proceeded to take a seat next to Anwar for a brief moment before the latter moved to sit closer to his PAS rival.
Saiful stressed that his candidacy did not stem from personal vendetta but instead his own wish to see more young leaders in the political arena.
He said, however, he wished to move forward from the “old case” and to focus on his first-ever by-election.
He also gave an assurance that he will not use his history with Anwar as a tool to gain votes in his campaigns.
“My narrative is not about the case. I don’t want to talk about the past. The case is settled. Justice was served and he had received his pardon. Let’s move on.
“I’m not playing the fool by contesting. I’m 33 now and I am very serious. I think I am qualified enough to be an MP now,” he said.
Saiful added that his candidacy is not at all meant to hinder Anwar from pursuing his ambition to become the eight prime minister.
“As a former student of Anwar’s, I don’t think it’s wrong for me to compete against him.
“People are fed up with parties because there is too much politicking. An engineered by-election will cause uncertainty to the country and we don’t want that.
“I’m not saying I support Pakatan Harapan or Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad but the new government has only been running for four months, why do we need to have a new leader so soon? Why not wait for say two more years?”
He added that he will reveal the details of his electoral manifesto within the next few days.