On the Beat | By Wong Chun Wai

All part of the political game

Two years after the 2008 general election, the Pakatan state governments, arguably, have not lost their popularity and voters in these two states are prepared to overlook their occasional slip-ups, seeing them as part of the learning curve.

After all, the Barisan already had their opportunities for the past five decades, so why should the inexperience of these two new state governments not be forgiven?

With one foot in the state government and another foot hoping to land in Putrajaya, there is strong confidence within the Pakatan that they can push even harder in the next election, with many believing that the administrative capital is within their reach.

But the PKR, as the main component in the Pakatan, is also like any political party. Politi­cians may like to project themselves as saviours to the people, and some may even start believing in their own propaganda, but it is also about power and positions.

Khalid, a former corporate figure, has a likeable personality and the business and political establishments have found it easy dealing with him. He is, after all, a product of the country’s establishment.

In fact, in the 2007 Ijok by-election, which he contested and lost, the PKR treasurer-general stunned his listeners when he urged them to vote for the Barisan at the end of his speech, surely the result of his long association with the Barisan. Old habits, as they say, die hard.

In the 2008 political tsunami, Khalid won a parliamentary and state seat, and he went on to become a Mentri Besar.

It was a position, many believed, that Azmin Ali, the long-time confidante of Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim, had long eyed.

Like Khalid, Azmin also has a federal and state seat but the difference is that Azmin is a political animal who sees himself as having gone through a baptism of fire with all the trials and tribulations of an opposition man. Khalid would forever be seen to have an easier path, and worse, parachuted to a prized job.

Every approach made by Khalid since 2008 has been scrutinised, criticised and leaked to the media, including the ill-fated negotiation with PAS leader Datuk Dr Hassan Ali as Deputy Mentri Besar despite having a comfortable majority.

One of the news portals, Malaysia Insider, has attributed the mutiny in PKR, said to involve 16 Members of Parliament, to the lack of largesse – in simple English, it means lack of generosity over rewards and, in the political context, it refers to positions, contracts and titles.

Politicians, whether in the Pakatan and the Barisan, expect, even demand, these so-called loot of victories. More so among the early PKR members who feel that they have fought hard for it and insist that they should be recognised.

They are alarmed that former Barisan leaders, having failed in their own party polls, are now given the platform and accorded titles in the party. They want to know, and rightly so, where these people were in their early years of formation, when they were being beaten up by the police.

Then there are the PKR grassroots leaders, many formerly from Umno, who have not lost their political dealing skills, in a party where there are now growing economic opportunities.

It has not helped Khalid in steering the ship when many of his backers in the state government are former non-governmental organisation leaders.

They have the idealism but they are unlikely to be able to match the manipulative skills of seasoned politicians.

The media has long maintained that state executive councillor Elizabeth Wong, who was involved in a sex picture scandal, was a victim of PKR in-fighting. While it was easy to blame the Barisan, it certainly did not benefit the Barisan and certainly it would not be easy tracking the culprits as one does not need a forensic expert to figure out the possible conspirators.

On Friday night, Khalid reportedly called for an emergency meeting of state PKR leaders at his residence ahead of the leadership retreat this weekend.

The press has reported that the faction aligned to Azmin wants to move a petition to remove Khalid as the Selangor PKR chief.

There’s no smoke without fire. Azmin certainly would not want to see the house burnt down. A side meeting involving the key personalities would probably be brokered by Anwar to strike a deal.

A show of unity would be put up, the mutiny would be dismissed as a figment of imagination by the press, Azmin would remain silent and if the loot is still not well distribu­ted, or honoured, the next revolt would have to be staged. That’s realpolitik.