The race for Permatang Pauh has begun.It would be the most closely-watched by-election.
It would be interesting to watch in which direction the voters would move.Most political soothsayers have predicted Anwar Ibrahim to win.He has style, charisma, moral victory and an effective political strategist with an infective smile. He has the incontrovertible support of his constituents and not likely to end up in a blanket finish.He certainly has the competitive edge.Can he lose?
In every race or competition, just like in algebraic equation, there are the known and unknown factors.In the case of Anwar the known factor is that most non-Malays and young educated urbanised Malays will vote for him without any hesitation.This group have made up their mind and would take miracles to change them. The second sodomy charges brought against him have strengthened their resolve that he is innocent and is a victim of government conspiracy and, therefore, deserved even more support.The story would have been slightly different if he had not been charged.The government has actually helped him to garner more support.
The constituency of Permatang Pauh has 70% Malays and 30% non-Malays voters.It would be the Malays that will decide whether Anwar should win this by-election.Whether he still deserves the Malay support taking into account the chain of events occurring after the 8th March General Elections.
His party PKR won significant number of state and parliamentary seats on the waves of majority non-Malay and Malay support, disenchantment with UMNO leaders and the Prime Minister. PKR alliance with DAP and PAS is now seen in some Malay quarters as weakening the Malay power base. PKR only did well in Selangor, which it won overwhelmingly on majority non-Malay support.
It won 15 state seats in Selangor out of which 6 were won by non-Malay candidates. Even in metropolitan Selangor PAS did extremely well taking 7 seats and being a metropolis DAP took 13 seats.If DAP had won 3 more seats than Selangor would have ended up like Penang and Perak,
under control of non-Malays, particularly Chinese.In the parliamentary seats in the state, PKR took 4 seats, won by 2 Malays and 2 non-Malays, DAP won 5 seats and PAS 1 seat.The seats won in other states were insignificant.Total seat won in Parliament was 31 out of which 11 were non-Malays.
PKR would be an ideal multi-racial party that most urbanised Malaysians would like to have to narrow the racial gap, the same way Berjaya did in Sabah about three decades ago until arrogance got the better of Harris Salleh, the Chief Minister at that time.Berjaya lost the state elections and it's back to communal politics ever since.Now with UMNO ruling the state, communalism is very alive and kicking.
Is Malaysia ready for multi-cultural party to govern the nation.From results of the last elections obviously not, only small segment of Malays are insouciance and are comfortable with multi-cultural political party.
Would Anwar succeed in his promise of 'one nation one people'? It was the same policy pushed forward by Lee Kwan Yew in his pursuit of Malaysian Malaysia that got Singapore kicked out of Malaysia.
When and until the government amend the constitution to make it Malaysian friendly, that dream would stay a dream, just like the receding horizon, we can see it but we can't get there.
A good example was Khalid Ibrahim's proposal to allow 10% non-Malays students into UiTM and presto!... there was spontaneous combustion from the Malays, about 5000 students demonstrated against his outrageous idea.It seems Khalid has superficial understanding of politics in this country.He forgot that UiTM is a national property and has nothing to do with the state of Selangor.
More damaging to PKR is the action of its Kulim MP, the demagogic Zulkifli Noordin who stormed the brainstorming session of the Bar Council public forum "Conversion to Islam" with a horde of menacing religious bigots behind him.Anwar has not made any condemnation of this infuriating show of intolerance for fear of reprisal at the polls.
Malaysia is now more polarized than before, no thanks to Abdullah for his promise of reformasi, we have come to a stage where the head doesn't know what the tail is doing.
In the Permatang Pauh by-election UMNO candidate Arif Shah, who is the only UMNO candidate that survived in the Permatang Pauh three state constituencies in the last elections would have tough time to take on Anwar but would still have a chance if UMNO can sway the Malay voters to his side by presenting Anwar as a traitor to the Malays which they certainly would.UMNO also has a bigger war chest to reckon with.PAS, might even leave Pakatan Rakyat, if he is seen not to be protecting the rights of Malays and Muslims.
Anwar's wife, Dr Wan Azizah Ismail managed to retain the Permatang Pauh seat all this while on sentiment and not performance as many would tend to believe, so did her daughter, who won the Titiwangsa parliament seat on sympathy votes.Sympathy votes had been known to make or kill the political career of many politicians, it has no rhyme or reason.
Arrogance is another factor that could kill a person political career and some in UMNO would have learned this bitter lesson.
It is not without any justification that some people sees Anwar as arrogance and power crazy.His persistent hammering of taking over the government by 15th September and he becoming the Prime Minister is backfiring on him.As I have said before PAS might not join him in any motion of vote of no confidence against the Prime Minister.The 30 or so MPs that he claimed he has waiting to jump to his side were probably mostly non-Muslims from Sabah and Sarawak which would add to his problem of persuading PAS to join in.
Some in DAP might not want to spoil the cooking of the broth, they are quite happy with what they have got so far, a botched vote of no confidence could jeopardise the status quo and them losing power in Perak and Selangor.
Anwar may still win Permatang Pauh but he may have to wait a bit longer to be the Prime Minister, if the political landscape doesn't change until the next general elections.