Back as a ruling party, PKR to drum up support at ‘special’ congress ahead of crucial state polls


KR will convene a special congress today here amid surging confidence after it successfully returned to power and ended decades of waiting to make its president Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim the prime minister. ― Malay Mail photo

SHAH ALAM (March 18): PKR will convene a special congress today here amid surging confidence after it successfully returned to power and ended decades of waiting to make its president Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim the prime minister.

Yet today’s congress will be far from a mere celebration as the Pakatan Harapan lynchpin is set to face crucial elections in six states that are set to test the strength of the fragile Pakatan Harapan (PH)-Barisan Nasional-Gabungan Parti Sarawak-Gabungan Rakyat Sabah federal coalition against a galvanised ultra-Malay Opposition, the Perikatan Nasional (PN) coalition of Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia and PAS.

James Chin, professor of Asian Studies at the University of Tasmania, said the congress will be a crucial platform for Anwar to rally his party and counter the nativist narrative that PN is expected to promote on the campaign trail. Chin suggested that Anwar would do this with a counter-narrative that showcases the ruling coalition’s inclusivity.

“I don’t think there will be any major surprises… I think this will be very much a post-election celebration with a lot of speeches praising Anwar Ibrahim,” he said.

“There will be a lot of talk of Umno and how [the cooperation]working out and how the unity government is going to save Malaysia. As for the leadership, they’re going to rally the troops, the focus is the state elections so I don’t think they can afford any bad press.”

Last month, PKR’s Selangor menteri besar Datuk Seri Amiruddin Shari was previously quoted saying that the chief ministers and menteris besar of the six states that must hold elections this year have tentatively agreed to call these simultaneously in June.

The six states are: Selangor, Penang, Negeri Sembilan, Kedah, Kelantan and Terengganu.

The coalitions in the government have so far closed ranks for the state elections, but have yet to decide whether they would unite a united front to face PN.

Dubbed the Unity Government Secretariat, Anwar is scheduled to chair its second meeting tomorrow at the headquarters of Umno.

PKR’s special congress today coincides with another planned rally over the weekend by Sekretariat Tanah Air, a right-wing Malay coalition that claims it is fighting to save Malaysia’s indigenous ethnic majority from minority control, which PH leaders have called a lie meant to instigate hate against other ethnicities.

One of the event’s key speakers will be two-time former prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, the man who fired Anwar as his deputy prime minister in 1998 and accused him of sodomy. Anwar was eventually convicted but this was later overturned. Anwar maintains to this day that his imprisonment was part of a political conspiracy against him.

Even now, Anwar’s unity government is still the subject of racial-driven attacks by an Opposition bloc that is attempting to portray his leadership as a liberal administration that promotes values inconsistent with Islam or undermine Malay economic interests.

The tactic appeared to be effective, at least in heavily-Malay constituencies. Chin said Anwar and PKR would likely want to use today’s congress to counter by harping on PN’s near-zero minority representation.

“PKR would want to show that they are really a unity government that represents all the races whereby PN has no single Indian or Chinese MP and they have very limited support in Sabah and Sarawak,” he said.

“This is a big selling point for him,” he said, referring to Anwar.

Yesterday, Anwar issued a stern warning against parties he said were using race and religion to promote strife and said his government will “not tolerate the slightest bit” any form of racial instigation and“continue to uphold the Federal Constitution” as he pledged to lead a government that is inclusive.

The remark came amid several recent incendiary issues brought up by PN and some quarters in the majority Malay-Muslim community, which included accusing a Youth and Sports Ministry event of Christian evangelism, targeting LGBT participation in the annual Women’s March, and threats of violence towards those involved in the contentious film Mentega Terbang.

All of the party’s central leadership is scheduled to speak, but all eyes will be on the wrap-up speech by Anwar, expected to be delivered by 5pm. — Malay Mail