After Anwar, could Azmin Ali be the glue to hold Pakatan together?

Selangor Mentri Besar, Azmin Ali at the state government office in Shah Alam, October 1, 2014. With all the legal troubles dogging Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim, the spotlight has fallen on his protégé, Azmin, to steer the PKR-DAP-PAS pact forward and keep the fragile six-year alliance from internal combustion. ― Picture by Yusof Mat Isa
Selangor Mentri Besar, Azmin Ali at the state government office in Shah Alam, October 1, 2014. With all the legal troubles dogging Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim, the spotlight has fallen on his protégé, Azmin, to steer the PKR-DAP-PAS pact forward and keep the fragile six-year alliance from internal combustion. ― Picture by Yusof Mat Isa

KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 7 — With the dust finally settling down in Selangor, all eyes are now on its new Mentri Besar Azmin Ali and his potential to be the next leader after Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim to hold the fractured Pakatan Rakyat (PR) together to go toe-to-toe against Barisan Nasional (BN) in the next general election.

With all the legal troubles dogging Anwar — including an appeal against his second sodomy acquittal to be heard next month that could send the opposition chief back to jail — the spotlight has naturally fallen on his protégé, Azmin, to steer the PKR-DAP-PAS pact forward and keep the fragile six-year alliance from internal combustion.

The 50-year-old is seen to be among the few PR leaders who enjoys a healthy working relationship with the top leaders in the three component parties, especially the president of its Islamist partner PAS Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang; and that, to political analyst Faizal Hazis, could prove beneficial to the PKR deputy president.

“Somehow Azmin has the ears of Hadi and some of conservatives,” the Universiti Malaysia Sarawak professor told Malay Mail Online.

“If he manages to ensure that PAS toes the line, to agree on a common Pakatan agenda, he can lead the pact,” he said.

Faizal said that PR’s senior leadership was in dire need of new blood, as the likes of Anwar, Hadi and DAP’s Lim Kit Siang represented the “old political framework”.

However, the academic was cautious about endorsing Azmin as the “next Anwar”, saying while the PKR deputy president’s future leadership at a national level was plausible, he would need to first prove his mettle by managing Selangor better than his predecessor Tan Sri Khalid Ibrahim.

“He has yet to show he is capable to pull the different factions within PKR together. Judging from the past, Azmin has proven to be divisive especially with his criticisms of Khalid.

“But he has now been given a clean slate. Now he has the opportunity to correct the wrongs,” Faisal said.

Azmin has said “consolidating” PR to be one of his priorities following the protracted mentri besar crisis in Selangor that set the three PR parties on a headlong collision course that is yet to be mended fully.

Faisal said the mentri besar’s promises would need to be translated into action if Azmin wanted to be viewed as a serious driving force to unite the federal opposition pact.

A potential road hump in Azmin’s way could be his party, which had engineered the “Kajang Move”, ostensibly to remove Khalid as Selangor mentri besar but which had also been designed to enable Anwar to take legitimate control of Malaysia’s most-developed state and use it as a stepping stone to take over Putrajaya.

Khalid was criticised by his former colleagues as being “stingy” in managing the country’s richest state, among other factors cited as leading to his ouster from PKR and the state administration.

But PKR vice-president Rafizi Ramli said the onus would be on Azmin to responsibly manage Selangor while at the same time ensure proper consultation between his party and the coalition.

“Azmin is no Anwar Ibrahim... but we have to give him the benefit of the doubt.

“Let him carry out his duty. Let us support him and not prejudge him,” the Pandan MP told Malay Mail Online last week.

Selangor DAP chief Tony Pua said it was “too early” to tell if Azmin could fill Anwar’s shoes and lead PR, but added that the PKR No 2 now had “an opportunity for him to prove himself” as Selangor MB.

PAS Youth chief Suhaizan Kaiat also said being Selangor MB would give Azmin the perfect opportunity to prove him worthy as a “big leader” among his allies in PR.

“He is already number two in PKR. Leaders have to learn and this (being Selangor MB) is a form of gaining political experience,” he told Malay Mail Online when contacted yesterday.

But the PAS man stressed that “leaders come and go”, adding that PR should not rely entirely on individuals for electoral support and victory at the polls for the entire alliance.

“We need more people to lead Pakatan. It should not be just limited to one person. Cultivate and nurture leaders from PKR, DAP and PAS so that together we can provide a good balanced leadership,” Suhaizan said.

Azmin’s first official move as mentri besar — having “rebranded” the portfolios of his 10-man state executive council — is already a telling indicator of how he plans to govern the wealthy state and lay the Selangor crisis to rest.

Azmin, and by extension PKR, will still continue to oversee the state’s finance and economic portfolios, which were previously held by his predecessor Khalid; the PKR deputy chief now heads the finance, land development, natural resources, Selangor economic council and information committee.

DAP has been given control of Selangor’s investment, commerce and transportation portfolios while expectedly PAS now oversees the Islamic affairs, Malay customs and agro-based industry state committees.

But have things changed much for the Bukit Antarabangsa assemblyman and Gombak MP.

Asked how he is he handling the many expectations, he told Malay Mail Online: “I am still the same. I am still Azmin. Nothing has changed except that my focus and priority is to consolidate Pakatan and deliver our promises in Selangor”.