By Joceline Tan
MANY in PKR are still hoping against hope for a last-minute reconciliation between their president and deputy president with only a week before the party’s national congress in Melaka. But the window of opportunity is closing as the group loyal to PKR No. 2 Datuk Seri Azmin Ali is planning to hold their own gathering – or a parallel congress as some call it – on the same day as the party congress on Dec 6.
The group is aware that the parallel congress will not be recognized by the party but they want to show that they have the numbers, especially at the supreme council level and even among divisions in the country.
It is understood that there is still a narrow chance of reconciliation because a supreme council member who enjoys the respect of the top two will be meeting Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim to seek an 11th-hour solution.
Anwar had tweeted on Friday evening for all leaders and delegates to attend the congress and to reignite the flame of reformasi and idealism.
Both sides understand how embarrassing it will be to have two congresses going on at the same time. It would be akin to publicly announcing that the party has been carved into two.
Moreover, Selangor, a vital state for PKR, has opted not to hold a state convention.
The party’s Selangor chairman and Azmin acolyte Datuk Amiruddin Shari has apparently refused to call for a state convention and it will be the only state not to do so.
In the meantime, Deputy Youth chief Hilman Idham confirmed that his faction will be turning out in full force at the joint opening of the Wanita and Youth wings, which will be officiated by Azmin.
Wanita chief Haniza Talha has obtained approval from the supreme council to invite Azmin to officiate at their event on the evening of Dec 5.
However, the Youth faction aligned to Youth chief Akmal Nasir has invited Datuk Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail to open their gathering on Dec 6.
The messy chain of events erupted after Akmal’s faction decided to break the tradition of inviting the deputy president to officiate at the opening of the two wings.
The move angered the Azmin group and a series of accusations and counter-accusations ensued.
The situation was further inflamed by the removal of the Youth wing’s permanent chairman and his deputy, both of whom are aligned to Azmin.
The reason for their removal was that they are above 35 years old. It was quite obvious that Akmal wanted them out so that a new permanent chairman who is on the same page as him can be appointed.
The party congress has become a battleground for the rival factions.
“I am very disappointed with this open defiance against our president. Many members are angry and they want Anwar to take action,” said vice-president Chang Lih Kang.
There is speculation that delegates who support Anwar may vent their frustration at Azmin – regardless of whether he is present.
His repeated declaration of devotion to Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad is viewed as a betrayal to the party.
There are bound to call for Anwar to come down hard on the rebel group.
However, Chang, who is also Tanjung Malim MP, dismissed speculation that the Azmin faction would be subjected to criticism and humiliation if they attended the congress.
“The cartel (the nickname for Azmin’s group) has put our party in a bad light but we don’t want the congress to be overshadowed by the split and quarrels. We want the debates to touch on issues that matter to the rakyat,” said Chang.
The current state of affairs has damaged the image of the party’s top two although Anwar has more to lose.
His inability to strike a compromise with his deputy or to contain the rebellion in his party does not bode well for his aspirations to become prime minister next year.
“The congress is in shambles. It will be terrible if only half the central leadership is there.
“For the sake of our grassroots, I would prefer for us to be one happy family. Nobody wants to see their parents divorced or a publicly divided house,” said vice-president Tian Chua, who claimed that he has not decided whether to attend.
The current round of warfare has been described as a tussle between the power of incumbency (Anwar) versus the power of numbers (Azmin).
The Azmin group, which triumphed in the party polls last year, controls a total of 20 elected positions in the central leadership compared to 10 by Anwar.
Azmin also has a daring and outspoken woman on his side in the form of vice-president Zuraida Kamaruddin. The Local Government and Housing Minister is a driving force in Azmin’s group.
More importantly, Azmin will take with him 15 MPs if he is sacked, which would leave a big hole in the party.
That is something that Anwar prefers to avoid for now.
PKR information chief Datuk Seri Shamsul Iskandar said the party’s top duo go back a long way.
“None of us can claim to understand the dynamics between them. But we cannot have such a prolonged period of indiscipline in the party. It needs to be resolved,” said Shamsul, who is also Deputy Primary Industries Minister.
Will the year-long discord between Anwar and Azmin come to a head next weekend and the rebel group’s parallel congress be the final straw for Anwar?
PKR politics is about to reach a critical crossroads.