By Joceline Tan
IT has been an extremely agonising couple of months for Datuk Seri Azmin Ali with the political spotlight trained squarely on this once golden boy of PKR.
Despite his diligence to his ministerial duties, the sex video issue has yet to dissipate going by the nasty comments on his social media accounts while the rift between him and his party president continues to make the news.
He has lost some weight but has not lost his boyish good looks.
But make no mistake, the Economic Affairs Minister has survived the worst crisis of his career, thanks largely to the protection of Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, the man he used to address as “uncle”.
His Cabinet post is intact as long as Dr Mahathir is there but he will struggle to go beyond that in the coming years unless something miraculous happens.
Given that, his endorsement of the Opposition’s support for Dr Mahathir to go on for a full term did not come as a surprise but it has infuriated people in his party.
Many in PKR saw it as proof that Azmin does not support what Dungun division chief Rahman Yusof refers to as hasrat PKR – the party’s aspiration to make Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim the next prime minister.
“All his tweets wishing Mahathir long life to do his job, that is fine with us because we also wish the PM well. But to align with the Opposition, that is crossing the line, ” said Anwar’s political secretary Farhash Wafa Salvador Rizal Mubarak.The disciplinary board has been under pressure to act against the deputy president.
There has been a steady stream of complaints to the disciplinary board since last month when 28 signatories released an open letter supporting Azmin and reprimanding Anwar for not standing by Azmin over the video issue.
Selayang MP and Anwar loyalist William Leong said it sparked off a groundswell of criticism from the grassroots.
Azmin’s zero attendance at any of the party’s supreme council and political bureau meetings since November has also been dredged up against him.
Azmin may have realised that he has gone too far because he finally acknowledged Anwar as the future prime minister a few days ago.
It was the first time since the acrimonious party elections that he has publicly said something to that effect.
Telling pressmen not to make assumptions about him, he denied that he does not support Anwar for the top job, and said he has no problems with Anwar.
But the fallout between him and Anwar started almost immediately after the party congress last year.
When the top two met after the congress, they had apparently agreed that Datuk Mansor Othman, who is close to both Anwar and Azmin, would take over from Datuk Saifuddin Nasution as secretary-general.
Azmin was furious when Anwar later decided to reappoint Saifuddin to the key post.
It was the big thorn in a string of disagreements over appointments to the supreme council, political bureaus as well as the state chairmen.
“It is not healthy for a party to have to face this kind of politicking. I’m not sure how it can be sorted out but our job is to serve the people, not fight for power, ” said Selangor PKR Youth chief Najwan Halimi.
PKR took a bold step when it sacked Haziq Abdullah Abdul Aziz weeks after he confessed to being the man in the video.
But would PKR dare act against Azmin?
Haziq was a nobody in the party but Azmin is the No.2 and a minister who is being shielded by Dr Mahathir.
It is learnt that Dr Mahathir, who has developed a liking for Housing and Local Government Minister Zuraida Kamaruddin, had advised her to remain in PKR and strengthen the party rather than seek an exit route.
The elder man knows that if Azmin or any of his key loyalists were to quit the party, he would not be able to keep them in the Cabinet because Cabinet members have to come from the coalition partners.
Strange as it may sound, the man who is most reluctant to act against Azmin is none other than Anwar.
“Members want Anwar to take a stronger stand on those seen as undermining the party or else there will be no discipline in the party. But he is too soft-hearted towards his enemies, ” said Leong.
For instance, Anwar has been reaching out not only to Azmin but also Zuraida who has been a ferocious critic.
When they crossed paths in Parliament recently, he said they should have a chat.
Half an hour later, his aide called Zuraida to Anwar’s parliament office where both of them spoke their minds on what went wrong between their two respective camps.
Zuraida used to be seen as a mere sidekick of Azmin.
But she has since emerged as a leader in her own right. She has strong views and is not afraid to speak her mind or stick her neck out for what she believes in.
Anwar understands the necessity of keeping the party in one piece.
Losing a deputy president would damage the image of the party and it is better to keep your friends close and your enemies closer.
Forcing out Azmin would also mean losing MPs who may choose to follow Azmin out.
Everyone agrees that Anwar is playing the game well the second time around – olive branches to his enemies, regular meetings with the Prime Minister while letting others do the hard-hitting.
His supporters were elated when Dr Mahathir said he would pass the baton to Anwar unless someone holds a gun to his head.
It was the strongest assurance on the transition thus far.
Anwar’s only challenge now is to play nice with Azmin and wait patiently for the big day.