Rafizi: For PKR polls, it's ‘reformists’ versus ‘pragmatists’

Rafizi refuted perceptions of hate between his and Azmin’s 'camps'. — Picture by Mukhriz Hazim
Rafizi refuted perceptions of hate between his and Azmin’s 'camps'. — Picture by Mukhriz Hazim

KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 12 — Rafizi Ramli has framed the PKR election, the first while the party is in government, as one between reformists and pragmatists.

The deputy presidential candidate, who is campaigning on the party’s ideals from its roots in the 1998 Reformasi movement, said party members would assess candidates’ consistency of behaviour over the past six or seven years on issues like the formation of Pakatan Harapan (PH), asset declaration, and the party’s relationship with PAS.

“So the party members will judge each one of us against a set of events in order to see whether you are consistently reformist in your behavior or you’re a pragmatist that changes whatever suits you,” Rafizi told Malay Mail in an exclusive interview here.

“I think the slight advantage that we have — people who stood up with me actually have a lot higher consistency in decision making.”

Rafizi, who is running against incumbent deputy president Datuk Seri Mohamed Azmin Ali, claimed that party grassroots were generally in favour of PH when it was formed in 2015 to replace Pakatan Rakyat (PR) that had comprised PKR, DAP, and PAS.

The formation of PH comprising PKR, DAP and Parti Amanah Negara (Amanah) then had sparked concerns among some PKR leaders about facing three-cornered fights against PAS in the 14th general election, as the traditional thinking was that such contests would split the opposition vote and benefit the incumbent Barisan Nasional (BN).

Rafizi refuted perceptions of hate between his and Azmin’s “camps”.

He said people who stood with him were very focused on defending PKR’s multiracial identity instead of pandering to Malay-Muslim unity.

“We were not prepared to change that just to win votes. We were very focused on Reformasi, on PKR’s central role in the opposition coalition, that we must defend it at all costs. We were seen to be more diplomatic with partners. Obviously whoever subscribes to this are seen to be in one camp.

“Whoever feels that defending Selangor at all costs, even if that means ditching Pakatan and staying with PAS and all that comes with it, are seen as another camp,” said Rafizi.

The PKR-DAP-PAS administration remained in Selangor even after PH was formed. Then-Selangor Mentri Besar Azmin had reportedly favoured cooperation with PAS despite the formation of PH.

Rafizi said he did not doubt Azmin’s sincerity in trying to engage PAS “to the end”.

“That’s what he believed. I believed based on the data I had was a three-corner fight would be good. The beauty of Anwar Ibrahim’s leadership is to manage these two different sets of ideas competing with each other. But in the end, we all contributed to the work and won.”

The former Pandan MP said he set up Invoke, a data analytics firm that worked with PH candidates in 44 parliament seats, because “half of the party” did not believe in working on marginal seats and some party leaders then only wanted to focus on working with PAS. PH won 42 out of those 44 seats.

“Azmin would be seen as more pragmatic to court PAS. We were perhaps more foolishly very adamant that we had to defend the essence of the party.”

Despite multi-cornered races against PAS and BN, PH won the historic May 9 general election and swept most of the peninsular states. BN only retained Perlis and Pahang, while PAS retained Kelantan and took Terengganu from BN.