The Malaysian Insider 19 October 2014. Also published in Malay as “Azmin perlu pimpin PKR, satukan Pakatan tanpa Anwar, kata penganalisis

With Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim’s fate to be decided by the Federal Court next week, political observers say his party PKR should start thinking about a future without him.

So should Azmin Ali, the PKR deputy president and Selangor Menteri Besar, who will likely be the man of the hour if the court sends Anwar, the party’s de facto leader, to jail for sodomy.

Institute for Democracy and Economic Affairs (Ideas) CEO Wan Saiful Wan Jan said the party needed to be prepared, both mentally and physically, for an unfavourable verdict by focusing on grooming new party leadership.

“Not only do they need to continue the fight, PKR should also intensify their efforts to bring in more recruits and mould future leaders for the party,” he said.

Anwar will face the Federal Court on October 28 and 29 for its decision against the Court of Appeal’s ruling that overturned his earlier sodomy acquittal. The offence carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison and will effectively end the 67-year-old’s political career if the apex court upholds his conviction.

Without Anwar, Wan Saiful said PKR will need to pull itself together in the challenge of maintaining collaboration within the Pakatan Rakyat (PR) which includes DAP and PAS.

Although ties with DAP remains firm, the party’s cooperation with PAS has appeared shaky since the Selangor Menteri Besar impasse.

This burden of keeping everything together, Wan Saiful said, will be PKR deputy president Mohamad Azmin Ali’s to bear.

“PKR’s future will depend on him. He will have to become a leader not just for PKR but also Pakatan,” he said.

This, he added, was because Azmin has had good relationship with PAS and obtained DAP’s support during the height of the crisis.

Wan Saiful said the Gombak MP could be the bridge that unites PR, similar to the role played by Anwar.

To do that successfully, Azmin may need a different style and approach.

“He needs to be more approachable because many people have this impression that he is hard to get close to and inflexible,” he said.

PKR Youth said it was likely Azmin would have an enlarged role in a party without Anwar.

“PKR’s future without Anwar lies with Azmin, he will have to bear the responsibility of leading the party, and possibly the coalition,” said the party’s Youth vice-chief Mohd Radzlan Jalaludin.

Prof James Chin of Monash University, however, had a different opinion.

He said that although Azmin was more influential politically than party president Datuk Seri Dr Wan Azizah Ismail, the Selangor menteri besar would still need to sort out the question of future leadership with her, as she is also Anwar’s wife.

“In one way, Azmin has the advantage but I feel he will not be making too many moves as Wan Azizah is still the party president,” he said. – October 19, 2014.

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