Could be a dirty fight between Rafizi and Saifuddin

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Vital that Anwar not take sides.

The fight between PKR’s Rafizi Ramli and Saifuddin Nasution Ismail for the deputy presidency in the party polls could get dirty, political analysts said.

They warn the contest could be as damaging as that between Mohamed Azmin Ali and Rafizi for the same post in the last party polls.

They also said that it was vital that PKR president Anwar Ibrahim not take sides.

“To say that this election is going to be calmer and less tense than that previously between Azmin and Rafizi is not correct. It does not mean there will be no drama, just because it’s Saifuddin and Rafizi.

“Yes, the last time Rafizi was in Anwar’s camp, but this time we see him as a different man, more independent and mature,” political observer and former PKR man Badrul Hisham Shaharin said.

He also predicted that Anwar would throw his tacit support to his long-time righthand man Saifuddin, who is now the party secretary-general.

“I predict three men gunning for the post of deputy president. The third candidate will be Farhash Wafa Salvador Rizal Mubarak, and Saifuddin is going to act as a camouflage,” Badrul said, referring to the contest between Azmin, Khalid Ibrahim and Saifuddin in 2014.

Khalid was then Selangor menteri besar and, according to Badrul, was hugely popular with the party’s grassroots.

“Anwar planted Saifuddin to split the votes. At that time Khalid was so popular but Anwar wanted Azmin to become his deputy.

“I foresee this happening again where Rafizi is such a popular figure at the moment in PKR but Anwar wants absolute control of the party,” Badrul said, adding that he hoped Anwar would remain neutral and allow the spirit of “reformasi” to flourish within the party.

“Anwar must change and he cannot use this party for his own benefit. He must live up to the spirit of reformasi.

“Yes, we backed him as the candidate for prime minister, I backed him too, but not to the extent that we can all say yes to what he wants to do,” he added.

Chegubard was sacked by PKR in 2016 on the grounds of “damaging the party’s image” and disciplinary misconduct.

He said he still maintains good relationships with PKR members, so knows that Rafizi continues to enjoy support from party members.

“The grassroots want him and he has good links with them. How Anwar will stop Rafizi’s influence is something we will have to wait and see,” he added.

Rafizi took a back seat in politics after narrowly losing to Azmin in the last party polls in 2018, despite the nod from Anwar.

He had also sat out the general election that year, following a criminal conviction.

During Rafizi’s time away from party politics, both Farhash Wafa and Saifuddin were said to have firmed up their positions as Anwar loyalists.

NST

Meanwhile, Azmin orchestrated the Sheraton Move in February 2020 and defected to Bersatu, which saw the collapse of the Pakatan Harapan government.

Last month, Rafizi announced his political comeback by declaring his candidacy for deputy president in the party polls next month.

He said things would have to be changed to stop the rot, following its crushing defeat in three consecutive state elections.

Rafizi said PH’s continuous decline in recent polls had placed it in third place, behind Barisan Nasional and Perikatan Nasional, adding that this would jeopardise the progress of multiracial politics.

Ilham Centre executive director Hisommudin Bakar said tension could be reduced if Anwar remained neutral.

“Tension will surely go up if Anwar chooses a camp. When a candidate starts using his name as an endorsement, the situation can be different. It is important for Anwar to stay impartial.

“PKR also must not let certain groups run around freely. In the last party polls, people wearing in black T-shirts representing one candidate caused many problems during the polls. This has to stop,” Hisommudin said.

James Chin, professor of Asian Studies at the University of Tasmania, predicted a dirty fight but said it was too early to say who Anwar would throw his weight behind.

He noted that many grassroots members were hoping for Rafizi to take over, but party icon Anwar will not give up his mantle that easily.

“It will be dirty, but it is too early to say who Anwar will support. It will depend on what Rafizi or Saifuddin say about keeping Anwar in power.

“We need to look at Rafizi and Saifuddin’s manifestos, what new pathway can be offered for PKR and from there you can tell what they think of Anwar,” Chin said.

However, Mazlan Ali of Universiti Teknologi Malaysia predicted a clean fight, noting that both contenders are pro Anwar.

“I see the contest this time is more of a friendly match rather than personal ambition. Unlike previously, when Rafizi was running against Azmin there was a bit of personal interest.

“It would not be as tense as then, because both of them are Anwar’s men. It will not cause too much damage within the party,” Mazlan said.

In the 2018 party elections, Azmin managed to retain the deputy’s post, but it came at the cost of dividing the party, and a falling out between him and Anwar. – TMI