Pakatan insiders: Khalid safe, but Azmin wobbly as Wan Azizah tarries

Datuk Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail has decided to defend her PKR presidency in May. ― File pic
Datuk Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail has decided to defend her PKR presidency in May. ― File pic

KUALA LUMPUR, March 31 ― Datuk Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail's surprise decision to defend her PKR presidency in May has scuppered the scheme to oust Tan Sri Khalid Ibrahim from leading Malaysia's richest state for now, Pakatan Rakyat (PR) insiders said.

Several senior leaders within the opposition pact told The Malay Mail Online yesterday that the manouevre, dubbed the Kajang Move, stalled because the engineers are vacillating between crowning the ambitious Azmin Ali and sticking with Dr wan Azizah, a devout Muslim respected for her devotion to the party and her husband and de facto chief, Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim.

“Wan Azizah's win in the Kajang by-election and her presence as a representative in the Selangor state assembly is not a coincidence,” said Rafizi Ramli, PKR's director of strategy.

He added, “(Wan Azizah) is an option we can exercise, if we need a change of leadership.”

For the cautious Rafizi, said to be the architect behind the Kajang Move, such remarks are not to be taken lightly and rather indicate that any plan to replace Khalid as Selangor mentri besar remains merely “an option” at best.

A PKR source said that although there was strong grassroots support within the party for Azmin to become MB, party defacto leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim is worried that his long-time protege would not be accepted by PR partners, DAP and PAS.

“Wan Azizah is the safest option, because if the plan comes into fruition she will be able to get support from the likes of Lim Kit Siang and (Datuk Seri) Abdul Hadi Awang.

“But Azmin... is a different story. He is capable, but not everyone in PAS or DAP is comfortable with him assuming the MB post,” an influential party leader told The Malay Mail Online, on condition of anonymity.

Azmin had previously been hotly tipped to take over Selangor from Khalid.

But the subsequent vehement opposition from PAS and DAP dimmed the 49-year-old star power somewhat, prompting Anwar to step and announce his plan to run for Kajang.

That plan went south soon after the Court of Appeal overturned Anwar’s acquittal for sodomy and gave him a five-year jail sentence. The PKR adviser has filed an appeal to Malaysia’s highest court.

A Selangor DAP leader told The Malay Mail Online that "no further plans" on Khalid’s position have been discussed with any three PR parties after the Kajang by-election.

“Did we want Khalid to go? Yes... but it does not look that that will happen.

“The brains behind the 'Kajang move' cannot decide on either Azmin or Kak Wan (Dr Wan Azizah)...as far as DAP is concerned, it looks like its status quo for now,” the DAP man said, also on condition of anonymity.

Key PR officials have previously told The Malay Mail Online that their top leaders are agreeable that Khalid must to step down as chief of the country’s wealthiest state.

It is highly unlikely however that Khalid will concede or give way to anyone without force being exerted, especially after declaring his intention to solidify his position in PKR by challenging the Gombak MP for the deputy presidency in the party's internal polls in May.

The deputy presidency will now see a six-way tussle ― with MB Khalid, outgoing secretary-general Datuk Saifuddin Nasution Ismail, incumbent vice-president Chua Tian Chang, Hulu Selangor branch member Datuk K. Ramachandram and former Puchong branch chief S. Murali contesting against Azmin.

What will happen if Azmin loses his post? Will he still try to oust Khalid? Only time can tell.