Anwar announces he is contesting election for PKR presidency

Parti Keadilan Rakyat leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim will be contesting the election for the party presidency to strengthen his stand in Malaysia’s new government.
Parti Keadilan Rakyat leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim will be contesting the election for the party presidency to strengthen his stand in Malaysia’s new government. PHOTO: REUTERS

The de facto leader of Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR), Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim, has announced that he will be contesting the election for the party presidency, a decision seen as strengthening his stand in the new government.

In a statement yesterday, Mr Anwar, 70, said he made the decision after discussing with his wife and current party president Wan Azizah Wan Ismail, PKR deputy president Azmin Ali and other leaders.

"After discussing with Azizah, the deputy president and the leadership, and after taking into account the views and needs of PKR... I offer myself to contest the position of PKR president," he said in the statement.

"God willing, if I receive the mandate from the party grassroots throughout the whole country, I will steer the party as president after the completion of PKR's national congress which will be held in November 2018," he added.

PKR polls will be held at the end of August, with nominations for candidacy set for July 29.

Mr Anwar had served as deputy prime minister from 1993 to 1998 under then Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, and was heir-apparent until his sacking in 1998.

PKR, one of the four parties in the ruling Pakatan Harapan (PH) coalition, was formed after his eventual imprisonment in 1999.

The PH coalition, led now by Tun Dr Mahathir, pulled off a stunning victory in the recent general election and in forming his government, Dr Mahathir appointed Dr Wan Azizah, 65, as Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Women and Family Development.

Since his release, Mr Anwar has met several Malay rulers, including Johor Sultan Ibrahim Sultan Iskandar.

He also travelled abroad to Britain and Turkey, where he had surgery done on his shoulder last Thursday.

Mr Anwar has made known his intentions to return to politics in a by-election but has not mentioned any specific dates. His supporters have also called on him to begin the transition to lead PKR, become an elected lawmaker and eventually prime minister.

The ruling coalition had agreed prior to the general election that Dr Mahathir will be prime minister in the first two years of the term, with Mr Anwar as prime minister-in-waiting.

Political analysts see Mr Anwar's move as solidifying his standing within the coalition, as the de facto leader title is not a legally recognised post by the Registrar of Societies.

Throughout history, all Malaysian prime ministers have been heads of their political party.

"Becoming PKR president creates a much smoother transition, going forward, as he carries through with the plan to become prime minister," said Professor James Chin, director of the Asia Institute at the University of Tasmania in Australia.

"By announcing this now, he's ensuring there's no challenge within PKR for the presidency post," Prof Chin added.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 16, 2018, with the headline 'Anwar announces he is contesting election for PKR presidency'. Print Edition | Subscribe