by FAYYADH JAAFAR / pic by MUHD AMIN NAHARUL
RAFIZI Ramli — the newly elected deputy president of PKR — will have to compromise on his role as the second-most powerful person in the party and rethink his stance regarding the “big tent” strategy.
Nusantara Academy for Strategic Research political analyst Dr Azmi Hassan said Rafizi will eventually realise that the “big tent” concept has to be materialised if PKR is to defeat Barisan Nasional (BN) in the next general election.
“Talking about reform within PKR, I think the first thing that Rafizi would do is tweak the ‘big tent’ concept a little bit.
“Rafizi is basically trying to move the fence-sitters to support Pakatan Harapan (PH) while avoiding working together with parties that he considered as traitors or full of corrupt leaders,” he told The Malaysian Reserve (TMR) recently.
“I think Rafizi will come to realise that PKR and PH need all the help from other Opposition parties to defeat BN,” he added.
Azmi explained that since PKR president Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim is a big fan of the “big tent” concept, it is important for Rafizi to be pragmatic to defeat BN in the 15th general election (GE15).
“Rafizi is for the concept, but he does not agree to PH working with a party which he considered non-aligned to the ideology.
“For example, he is against PH and PKR working with Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia. But with his position as the deputy president, Rafizi should come to his senses that PH needs all the help from other Opposition parties to defeat BN,” he said.
Commenting on the results of the PKR election, he said Rafizi’s victory was expected.
“Rafizi won convincingly and his chances of public office will be heightened much more, especially in terms of being nominated as a GE15 candidate,” he said.
On the possibility of a rift between Rafizi and PKR secretary general Datuk Seri Saifuddin Nasution Ismail — who lost out to the former — Azmi said the two had been friendly despite their disagreements on the “big tent” policy.
“I don’t think it will cause any damage between Rafizi and Saifuddin, especially during the campaign period. So, Saifuddin has no choice but to accept and work with Rafizi as the deputy president of PKR,” he opined.
Azmi also said Rafizi has a convincing mandate from party members, so they are confident in him and will give him the authority to make changes to the party.
“In the Melaka, Sarawak and Johor state elections, party decisions were basically made by Anwar alone but now, with a convincing mandate from members of PKR, Rafizi would have the power and the influence to put forward his own ideas.”
Meanwhile, he said the memorandum of understanding (MoU) between PH and the government will wither away soon as it was signed without consulting party members.
This was echoed by Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia deputy director of the National Institute of Ethnic Studies Prof Dr Kartini Aboo Talib who said Rafizi preferred a more committed team to a loose unbinding coalition.
“The MoU now seems rhetorical, though it is still a workable instrument if seriously delivered.
“Umno and BN are firm in contesting without PAS and Bersatu in GE15, triggering another strategic coalition with other new available parties,” she told TMR, adding that Rafizi has reasons to oppose the “big tent” concept.
“He wanted a registered association like BN, not a loose coalition like PH. I think PH leaders will sit down and discuss this further. Rafizi has ideas, and they might listen to him.
“Regarding Saifuddin, I believe they are professional and can always put aside their differences for the sake of PKR. They are party loyalists and resilient to being with PKR,” she said.
As only 13% of voters turned up at the recent party election, Kartini opined that PKR — with less hierarchy and a small number of potential leaders — should retain party loyalists with experience.
“This should give them an advantage. The winner or losers are members of PKR. It is best to keep them all,” she added.
As for the future of PKR and its leadership, Kartini said Rafizi must reflect on the losses from the recent Melaka and Johor elections.
“He can continue introducing new ideas to rejuvenate PKR and prove that he is the right leader for the party. PKR must regain the trust of the rural Malays and continue to empower urban voters.”
Sharing this sentiment was Universiti Malaya’s political analyst Prof Dr Hamidi Abd Hamid.
“Rafizi will try first to change the look, stand and approach of PKR. He will try to attract the younger and middle-aged generations into the party, and get the support of the Malay voters who have left PKR.
“Rafizi will cement his position and place his men in the party structure while Saifudin will continue to live under the presidency’s shadow,” he said to TMR.
However, he added, there is so far no clear indication that Rafizi’s success will damage the party, as happened in 2018.
“Having said that, what will happen this June when PKR officially announces the election result and names the central committee?
“Clearly, PKR’s election result will not affect PH leaders, many of which have already given their support for the ‘big tent’ approach. So, the burden is on Rafizi to convince PH to abandon the concept without breaking the coalition,” Hamidi concluded.