To sack or not to sack Azmin: A Shakespearean dilemma

Philip Golingai

Is it only a matter of time before PKR deputy president Datuk Seri Azmin Ali is sacked from his party?

To sack or not to sack Datuk Seri Azmin Ali. That’s the question confronting PKR president Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim, according to political analyst Shahbudin Husin.It isn’t an easy decision, said Shahbudin, the author of Anwar PM Ke-8: Janji Serah Kuasa Yang Mesti Ditepati (Anwar The Eighth PM: A Promise To Transfer Power Which Must Be Fulfilled).

“If Anwar sacks Azmin (who is PKR deputy president), he will be in difficulty. If Anwar doesn’t sack Azmin, he will be in difficulty, ” said the author, who is a strong supporter for Anwar to be the next Prime Minister. “But for me, it is better for Anwar to sack Azmin.”

Shahbudin explained that sacking Azmin would solve part of Anwar’s problems – Prime Minister and Pakatan Harapan chairman Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad wouldn’t be able to use Azmin to stop Anwar from becoming Prime Minister and Azmin couldn’t destroy PKR from within.

“If Azmin remains in PKR, he will continue to destroy the party and increase his support little by little in the party. As long as there is no commitment from Dr Mahathir for a date for the transition of power, Anwar will continue to have problems by keeping Azmin inside PKR, ” he said.

The flipside to sacking Azmin is that PKR will be split. However, Shahbudin argued that Anwar has to make sure that the impact would be minimal.

“If Anwar sacks Azmin, Anwar is worried that Dr Mahathir may keep Azmin as a minister and he will be able to pull his supporters to leave PKR, ” he said.

Whether PKR would split if Azmin was sacked depended on how Anwar handled the crisis, said Shahdubin.

“Retak (crack) can’t be avoided but to avoid belah (split), Anwar can’t sack all those who are aligned to Azmin. He only needs


to sack the two dalang (masterminds) – Azmin and PKR vice-president Zuraida Kamaruddin. Anwar can slow talk the other pro-Azmin leaders, ” he said.The PKR president and Prime Minister-designate was in a Catch-22 situation where in the past 18 months his leadership has been tested, observed Ilham Centre’s Prof Hamidin Abdul Hamid.

“If he did not sack Azmin or some of Azmin’s generals, Anwar’s people would question him. But if he sacked Azmin, PKR would collapse. Like it or not, in the past 20 years, Azmin is the man behind PKR in reality. He did a good job in securing the party in a day to day operation as Anwar, being Anwar, was on the top level and in and out of prison, ” he said.

Is Azmin plotting to be sacked from PKR?

Shahbudin did not think so.

“If he gets sacked, Azmin will have problems. It is not easy to start a new party or to join another party, ” he said.

According to the author, what Azmin was doing was to get Anwar to tunduk (bow down) to him.

“If you listen to what was said in the PKR Congress, (PKR secretary-general Datuk Seri Saifuddin Nasution Ismail) revealed that Azmin did not agree for Anwar to be the eighth Prime Minister, ” he said.

Hamidin also did not think that Azmin was plotting to be sacked.

What Azmin wanted, according to him, was for Anwar to toe the line of Azmin’s group and for Azmin to take over from him as party president eventually. Azmin sensed that Anwar did not want him to lead PKR as the party president supported Rafizi Ramli in the party polls.

The PKR deputy president offered an olive branch in his speech when he opened the party women and youth congress in Melaka, said Hamidin who attended the congress as an observer.

“Azmin did not attack anyone. He took the middle road. He talked about the party and policies. I was surprised by Anwar’s Si Kitol and Raja Mendeliar speech. It opened up the opportunity for delegates to attack Azmin, ” he said.

(According to the Malay Annals, Si Kitol and Raja Mendeliar were traitors who caused the downfall of the Melaka sultanate to the Portuguese in 1511.)

If Azmin was sacked, how many supporters and MPs could he bring to his new party?

If you look at the congress, said Shahbudin, only 200 out of the 2,600 delegates followed him in the walkout. He said less than ten PKR MPs would join Azmin in a new party.

“If Anwar could get a date for the transition of power, fewer MPs would follow Azmin. But if more than 15 PKR MPs were with Azmin, then that would be bad for Anwar. Azmin would be able to pull (Sembrong MP Datuk Seri) Hishammuddin Hussein (of Umno) to be with him, and they could form a friendly alliance to support Dr Mahathir to remain as Prime Minister longer, ” he said.

Hamidin said he had heard that Azmin had 20 to 25 PKR MPs who would be with him if he was sacked from the party. Azmin, he said, had sizeable support in his party.

“When (Bera PKR division chief Zakaria Abdul Hamid) was sacked, 20 out of the 25 elected PKR central committee members rejected the sacking. This meant two-thirds of PKR’s top leaders supported Azmin. That was why Azmin and his group were very confident in their rebellion against Anwar. They felt that they had the support of the grassroots who voted for these central committee members (aligned to Azmin), ” he said.

Shahbudin said Azmin was “finished” if he was sacked from PKR.

“Inside he could create problems for Anwar. But when he was out, it was easy for Anwar to selesai (finish) him. If he was out, he would have no platform, and Dr Mahathir couldn’t use him as a kuda (horse). If he formed a new party, PKR and DAP would not agree to it joining PH, ” he said.

“That is why I said Anwar should sack Azmin. He can’t be sabar tahap dewa (patient like a god). As a leader, Anwar will have to make a decision. And it will be easier for his route to be the eighth PM.”

An Azmin insider told me that his boss was not begging to be sacked. But if the PKR deputy president was sacked, he would bring at least 15 PKR MPs with him in a new party. The new party will be with Pakatan government just like Parti Warisan Sabah which has three MPs as federal ministers.

Hamidin contended that Anwar should not sack Azmin as the stake was too high for him.

“If he sacked Azmin, it would be not only Azmin he was sacking. Like it or not, PKR is a Selangor-based party. Azmin is strong in Selangor. Easily 40% of PKR’s strength would be gone, ” he said.

An understrength PKR, he said, would not be a core party in Pakatan and Anwar’s chances of becoming Prime Minister would be less. “PKR still leads in PH in terms of numbers of MP and with that Anwar has legitimacy in his claim to be PM, ” he said.

(PKR has 50 MPs, DAP 42 MPs, Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia 26 and Amanah 11.)

To some extent, Hamidin said Anwar must be able to show that PKR is still in his control. He must show that his men can toe the line.

“For example, when his political secretary Farhash Wafa Salvador attacked Azmin and others, it showed that Anwar couldn’t control him. Or was Farhash acting under the instruction of Anwar?” he said.

“This does not give a good impression of Anwar. He must show that he is in control. On the ground, people are questioning how Anwar is going to rule Malaysia when he can’t control his party. People don’t listen to you in your party, then how are you going to rule PH – how are you going to face DAP, (Bersatu president Tan Sri) Muhyiddin (Yassin) and (Amanah president) Mohamad Sabu).”

The Azmin rebellion will not end unless someone is sacked, said Hamidin.

“Some of Azmin’s generals will be targeted. Who will be the scapegoat? How will Azmin respond?” he said.

For Shahbudin, it is only a matter of time before Azmin is sacked from PKR.



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