The battle for Perak – Anwar’s attack in Tambun a long overdue strategy to win GE15

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Anwar’s tactical move to Tambun would provide the little push required to repeat the 2018 result.

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Opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim does not have much time left in his quest for the Iron Throne. He would be 80 years old in the 16th General Election. Like any other heavyweight, the president of PKR (Parti Keadilan Rakyat or People’s Justice Party) had contested in his “safe seat” – Permatang Pauh – from 1982 to 2013, before contesting in Port Dickson.

Even then, he was forced to contest in Port Dickson in 2018 after received a royal pardon because his safe seat was being held by his daughter, Nurul Izzah, who won it in the 2018 General Election. His wife, Wan Azizah, had held the parliamentary seat on his behalf in the 1999, 2004 and 2008 General Election (as well as 2015 by-election) when Anwar was imprisoned.

On Thursday (Oct 20), Anwar, who is also chairman of the Pakatan Harapan coalition, announced that he will be contesting in the federal constituency of Tambun, Perak for the upcoming general election. Addressing a crowd of 7,000, he said – “I am not choosing a safe seat with a huge majority. I am brave to go and contest in Tambun. Perak will be the frontline for our struggle in this election.”

By shifting his electoral base to contest next month’s national election in the Perak state, Anwar finally adopts a new strategy to capture the federal government. Instead of playing safe since the former deputy prime minister was sacked by PM Mahathir Mohamad in 1998, PKR finally understands that insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.

Exactly what took him so long to get out of his comfort zone and take some risks? As a start, time is not on his side. For almost 25 years, Anwar has been chasing his own tail, contesting in his safe seat while hoping his party and allies could win enough parliamentary seats to enable him become the next premier. Now, he suddenly realized that he has to “seriously lead” the Opposition.

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Before Anwar announced that Perak will be the frontline of Pakatan Harapan, he admitted that he was inspired by Democratic Action Party (DAP), a component party of the coalition. Indeed, if only Anwar had led PKR the same way DAP supremo Lim Kit Siang aggressively and courageously explored new frontiers, perhaps Anwar would have become a prime minister already.

From Melaka (1969-1978), Lim Kit Siang contested and won in Selangor (1978-1982), before going back to Melaka (1982-1986) and thereafter Penang (1986-1999), Perak (2004-2013) and finally Johor (2013-2018). Today, except Perlis, Terengganu and Kelantan, DAP has state assembly representatives in every state in Malaysia. In the 2018 General Election, DAP won 42 parliamentary seats – its best achievement.

Kit Siang’s formula is creating a new safe seat for the party, before moving on to slaughter a new enemy and convert that seat for party members. It was through such hard work that DAP captured Penang in 2008 and together with fellow PKR and Amanah took Selangor in the same year. In 2018, the Opposition captured Kedah, Melaka, Negeri Sembilan, Perak, Sabah and Johor.

After Borneo states Sarawak (31 parliamentary seats) and Sabah (25 seats), Perak has 24 seats – the second most seats after Johor (26 seats) in Peninsular. No political party or coalition can form a government without first capturing Johor. The bastion of UMNO from even before independence – Johor – was lost to Pakatan Harapan four years ago. Now, Anwar wants to recapture Perak.

Last month, when the PKR president toyed with the idea of contesting in a seat held by a traitor of PKR or Pakatan Harapan, many thought Anwar was targeting former PKR deputy president Azmin Ali or former PKR vice-president Zuraida Kamaruddin. While it would be sweet revenge for Anwar to slaughter Azmin and Zuraida and take back the Gombak and Ampang seats, it’s nevertheless a childish strategy.

PKR could send someone else to defeat both traitors. Anwar would be “under-used” if he contests in Gombak or Ampang because at most, Pakatan Harapan will gain an extra seat. However, if he is used as the “poster boy” in Perak, it would boost the chance to win up to 24 parliamentary seats in the state. After capturing Perak in the 2018, the state was lost in 2020 due to defection and betrayal.

Interestingly, Tambun is a relatively new stronghold for Pakatan Harapan. Having won the seat for the first time in 2018, ending over 30 years of Barisan Nasional dominance there, the seat was subsequently lost after Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (Bersatu) deputy president Ahmad Faizal Azumu defected. Worse, the traitor won it under the Pakatan Harapan banner.

Azmin, along with Zuraida and another nine PKR MPs, left the party in a move known as the “Sheraton Move”. The 11 PKR traitors joined MPs from Bersatu, led by Muhyiddin Yassin, in a coup to topple the democratically-elected Pakatan Harapan ruling government. In Perak, Chief Minister Azumu switched sides and formed a new backdoor state government with defeated UMNO and PAS Islamist party.

Hence, it does not matter which seat Anwar contests, as long as it belonged to one of the traitors. The strategy is to inflict maximum damage on the enemy base. In truth, Pakatan Harapan (previously Pakatan Rakyat) won the Perak state election in 2008 prior to 2018, but on both occasions were unable to serve out full terms due to the same problem – treachery and betrayal.

With the anti-hopping law in place, Perak state can absolutely be captured again because the Opposition had done it twice. But can Anwar really win Tambun? Ahmad Faizal Azumu had won the seat with a 5,320 vote majority in 2018. The ethnic breakdown of Tambun’s electorate (2018) consists of 68.4% Malay, 18.54% Chinese, 11.5% Indian and 2% other ethnicities.

This shows Anwar has indeed taken a risky bet. Even if he could grab the entire 20% Chinese vote bank, he still needs another 30% of Malay or Indian votes combined to sail through. However, in addition to using PKR logo, Azumu had won the seat with over 5,000 vote majority in 2018 – suggesting that the Malay votes were split in a multi-cornered contest.

Unless UMNO and PAS joined forces, which is impossible as both Malay-based parties are at each other’s throats, Anwar can certainly win Tambun. The fact that Azumu immediately attacked Anwar after his announcement to contest Tambun, babbling about a 10-year-old interview with the Wall Street Journal about Israel, speaks volumes about the level of panic in Bersatu.

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Heck, Azumu was so terrified and panicked that he has even announced that he would not defend the Chenderiang state seat. Obviously, the move is to eliminate the risk of Azumu, known for his incompetence during his tenure as Perak Chief Minister, losing both the Tambun parliamentary seat and Chenderiang state seat. Given a chance, he wanted to run away, but there isn’t any safe seat for him.

Another reason Anwar could win is because UMNO-controlled news media have started attacking him, predicting that Tambun would be his Waterloo. Half-baked analysts from local universities have similarly expressed comical predictions that Anwar would lose because Azumu is younger, has stronger grassroots, a more caring leader and command the trust of young voters.

Get real, do you really think Anwar would jump blindly into Tambun without doing any survey or groundwork? Even if PKR Perak did not do any homework, DAP Perak led by Nga Kor Ming would not commit suicide by welcoming Anwar to lead the battle in Perak. If Pakatan Harapan loses, it does not matter whether Anwar wins or lose because it would be game over anyway.

But if the PKR president could inspire and mobilize the people of Perak to vote for Pakatan Harapan, not only the state would be captured, it could lead to winning the federal government. In the event Anwar lost in Tambun but the opposition won the federal government, it would still be a great victory. No matter how you calculate, betting Anwar in Tambun is still worth it.

More importantly, it creates a perception that Anwar has the balls of steel, unlike UMNO president Ahmad Zahid Hamidi (hiding in Bagan Datuk) or MCA president Wee Ka Siong (surviving on Malay support in Ayer Hitam) or PAS president Abdul Hadi Awang (hiding in Marang). Traitor Mahiaddin Yassin isn’t even sure if he could defend his Pagoh, which he won under the PKR ticket in 2018 thanks to 30% Chinese votes.

But Kit Siang was not alone in flipping enemy constituencies. Before Johor, the birthplace of UMNO, fells in 2018, DAP had laid the groundwork by sending several senior party leaders to Johor in 2013 – including strategist Liew Chin Tong. Those groundwork was the essence that brought ultimately down the state in 2018, leaving arrogant UMNO speechless.

In the case of Perak, Pakatan Harapan does not need to wait another five years. The state had already collapsed in 2008, and again in 2018. Anwar’s tactical move to Tambun would provide the little push required to repeat the 2018 result. Not only the “Perakians” can’t wait to teach the frogs a lesson, they are sick and tired of the lack of jobs and development during the Barisan Nasional and Perikatan Nasional governments. – Finance Twitter