KUALA LUMPUR, June 22 ― The “civil war” between two factions in PKR, heightened by a salacious sex scandal, may not necessarily cause a premature breakup of the maiden Pakatan Harapan (PH) government, analysts believe.
Singapore Institute of International Affairs senior fellow Oh Ei Sun noted that PKR president Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim and his deputy, Datuk Seri Mohamed Azmin Ali, have been at loggerheads even at the start of the new administration last year when Anwar's camp had criticised Azmin's ministerial appointment.
“PKR has openly split into two camps only a few days after 509, when Anwar’s camp openly criticised Azmin’s Cabinet appointment,” Oh told Malay Mail, referring to the 14th general election on May 9 last year.
“This was followed by the acrimonious party elections, and then Azmin publicly defying Anwar in an open letter. So the sex video is simply the latest battle in an ongoing PKR civil war that has long seen the major party figures choosing sides.”
He added, however, that if the confrontation between Azmin's camp and Anwar's people is allowed to escalate, PH coalition members will be forced to choose between the two.
Even though it will not trigger the fall of the PH administration, there will definitely be a change of allegiances and loyalties in the ranks of the coalition.
Oh made an interesting note that those who would back Azmin is actually backing Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad. It is no secret that many in Dr Mahathir's party, Bersatu, prefer Azmin's candidacy for prime minister instead of Anwar.
It is also said in political circles that Dr Mahathir prefers Azmin over his verbally chosen successor Anwar.
“As long as Dr Mahathir is refusing to hand over to Anwar and is thus playing Azmin against Anwar, PKR’s imminent split is a question of when, not if. And yes, eventually DAP would have to choose between Anwar or Mahathir,” said Oh.
Once the split occurs, Oh made an ironic prediction saying that the senior DAP stalwarts will take Anwar's side, while the party's youth would side with Dr Mahathir as he had promoted them into government.
The release of several sex videos featuring two men, with a PKR member coming out publicly to claim that he and Azmin were the duo in those clips, has surfaced deep divisions in Parliament’s largest party with 50 federal seats.
DAP, the second-largest party in Parliament with 42 MPs, and Amanah have generally kept out of the fray.
Speaking to Malay Mail, University of Tasmania's Asia Institute director James Chin dismissed the notion of PH being forced to choose between Anwar's camp and Azmin's.
“Not really. I think the general consensus is everyone is keeping quiet. The reason why people don't want to get involved is because this is a sex video.
“The problem with sex video is that 'once you go in, you will never come out' because it just keeps repeating itself,” he said.
He believes that the accusations thrown between Azmin's followers and Anwar's supporters are only temporary until they get a clearer picture of who is actually behind the video.
At the same time he noted that the accusations will continue to be thrown about, even ones claiming the involvement of component coalition partners like Bersatu in the scandal.
He said the end to the accusations will only happen once the party behind the video is found as Azmin's political career also hinges on who is behind the video and whether or not it is a fake video.
“So getting to the bottom of it, whether the video is true or fake, that one is far more important than who is behind it. For example, if they can prove that the video is fake, then Azmin will probably come out of this crisis in a much stronger position,” Chin said.
Professor Jeniri Amir from Universiti Malaysia Sarawak agreed with Chin that although the scandal has tarnished both PKR and PH, it will not fracture the administration.
“I don't think it will go to that extent.They don't want the government to fall. Because they realise that it is very important for them to retain power. Otherwise, it becomes a lose-lose situation,” he explained.