PETALING JAYA • The president of Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) last month sat down with other opposition leaders to launch a new opposition alliance without getting the approval of PKR's decision-making supreme council.
The move set off rumblings in the party as some questioned whether she was empowered to make a unilateral decision on such a key issue.
Twenty-five of the 54 PKR supreme councillors have petitioned for an emergency meeting this Sunday to get PKR president Wan Azizah Wan Ismail to explain her decision, a move that brought into the open tensions in PKR and the new opposition alliance.
The members of tnew alliance - called Pakatan Harapan - are the Democratic Action Party (DAP), PKR and the newly formed Parti Amanah Negara.
Pakatan Harapan (Coalition of Hope) replaced the former opposition pact called Pakatan Rakyat (People's Alliance).
I do question the process in which the decision was hastily made at the roundtable. Not many NGOs were invited and only some of us were given 'speaking rights'.
MS MARIA CHIN ABDULLAH, Bersih 2.0 chairman, on the discussion, which was attended by opposition parties and NGOs
But some PKR leaders want Parti Islam SeMalaysia (PAS), which carries a big chunk of rural Malay votes, to be included in the new opposition pact despite tensions between the Islamic party and Chinese-based DAP that caused Pakatan Rakyat to break up.
The birth of Pakatan Harapan was announced by the opposition, including Datuk Seri Wan Azizah, the wife of jailed opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim, after a roundtable discussion involving the opposition and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) on Sept 22.
Some PKR leaders said she was supposed to first inform the PKR supreme council of the results of the roundtable discussion, and not get carried away with an impromptu press conference to announce Pakatan Harapan's birth.
The seeming haste in announcing the alliance's birth was questioned yesterday by an influential pro-opposition non-governmental organisation (NGO), Bersih 2.0.
"I do question the process in which the decision was hastily made at the roundtable," Bersih 2.0 chairman Maria Chin Abdullah told the Malaysian Insider news site yesterday. "Not many NGOs were invited and only some of us were given 'speaking rights'."
The emergency meeting of PKR's supreme council will pit Dr Wan Azizah and her supporters against those from the rival faction led by deputy president Azmin Ali, who is also the Selangor Menteri Besar.
Mr Azmin said yesterday that the petition by the 25 councillors for an emergency does not signify a party split.
"There is no split (in the party). This is an internal matter. We will not discuss internal matters openly," he told reporters, as reported by Malaysiakini.
The bickering within Malaysia's opposition parties has caused cracks that will be tough to paper over. For one thing, Parti Amanah was formed by several dozen former leaders of PAS, thus making it unlikely that PAS wants to be part of the new coalition.
PAS leaders have insisted that Parti Amanah MPs and assemblymen who won seats on the PAS ticket at the 2013 general election must vacate their seats, which they have refused.
Tensions among opposition members, meanwhile, continue to simmer between the DAP and PAS as they have blamed each other for months for causing the break-up of the previous alliance, Pakatan Rakyat. But there is also a view that a new opposition pact that excludes PAS has added to the tensions.
Amanah deputy president Salahuddin Ayub on Sunday described as "backward" those who claimed that Pakatan Harapan was dividing opposition party members.
"Blaming Pakatan Harapan for being the source of division without self-reflection and self-improvement is regressive behaviour, which fails to take the lead in critically changing times," Mr Salahuddin said in a statement.
Added to the competing interests is the fact that Selangor Menteri Besar Azmin wants PAS to be in the new pact to counter-balance the DAP's political strength in the state, although doing so would likely aggravate the DAP-PAS and the Amanah-PAS grievances.
The state legislature of Selangor, Malaysia's most industrialised state, is jointly controlled by PKR, DAP, PAS and Parti Amanah lawmakers.