Anwar intervenes as tensions surface in PKR leadership over Selangor election candidates

Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim (above) is believed to have met with Datuk Seri Azmin Ali to discuss the candidate list.
Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim (above) is believed to have met with Datuk Seri Azmin Ali to discuss the candidate list.PHOTO: THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK

PETALING JAYA (THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - The empty seat separating Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail and Datuk Seri Azmin Ali and the sullen look on their faces was one of those pictures which spoke a thousand words.

It happened at a PKR event in Seberang Jaya, Penang on Sunday (April 22), and it had quickly gone viral.

The optics pretty much summed up the intense tussle over seats that had gone on between the two camps in Malaysia's opposition Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) the last few days - one camp is led by its deputy president Mr Azmin and the other by its president Dr Wan Azizah and her chief ally Rafizi Ramli, one of the PKR's vice-presidents.

The tension between PKR's top two carried onto the big rally that the opposition pact Pakatan Harapan (PH) held in Sungai Besar, Selangor on Monday (April 23) evening.

The rally on Monday came at the end of a day of high level politics in PKR that saw Mr Azmin meeting Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim in a Selangor hospital where he had been admitted for observation.

The first meeting took place at around 1pm during which Mr Azmin is believed to have discussed the candidates list with Anwar, PKR's de-facto head. Anwar is in jail for a sodomy conviction but has been warded at the hospital for an ailment.

Malaysia's most special prisoner still calls the shots from behind bars.

It is understood that the meeting was inconclusive. Anwar wanted to study the list and Mr Azmin left for an event in Kuala Selangor.

Mr Azmin, who is also Selangor Menteri Besar, returned again to the hospital at about 5pm to continue the discussion with Anwar and it is learnt that the second meeting did not go well and was quite tense.

Blood is thicker than water and Anwar is believed to have leaned towards the side of his wife on the issue of the candidates list.

Although Mr Azmin did not completely get what he wanted, a number of names on his preferred list were reinstated.

The main casualty on the list appeared to be the incumbent for Rawang Gan Pei Nie who had broken down in tears at a press conference on Monday afternoon to explain her dilemma.

Ms Gan, who is a protege of vice-president Tian Chua, was dropped while top Azmin aide Khalid Jaafar's candidature was rejected. Mr Azmin wanted Mr Khalid, who works in his Menteri Besar office, to stand in Hulu Selangor.

Another Azmin ally, Mohd Razlan Jalaluddin, the coordinator for Kota Damansara, was also rejected as a candidate.

But most of Mr Azmin's candidates went through.

The tensions over the candidates list means that the PKR president and her deputy will be going into the general election at war with each other.

They are barely speaking and seem unable to even pretend to be cordial with each other.

Many in PKR were on edge during the PH rally on Monday night.

Dr Wan Azizah had not indicated to any of them whether she was going to announce the candidates list.

The leaders, including Mr Azmin, was unsure whether Dr Wan Azizah would keep to the list of names hammered out between him and Anwar earlier in the day.

She kept everyone hanging on until the end of her speech when she "sought the consent" of Mr Azmin to read out the list.

It was quite a sleigh of hand on her part.

She may be seen as a weak president but she still wields the powers of a president and she is the one who signs the watikah (authority letter) of the candidates.

Fighting to dominate seats in a general election happens in every party but this one had a personal edge to it, given the long-running rivalry between the Azmin and Rafizi camps.

Rafizi is not eligible to contest the general election after being convicted in a case linked to alleged siphoning of money involving the family of an Umno leader.

But Rafizi is trying to put in place people who are aligned to him and PKR's first family.

Rafizi sees himself as the one who can manage the party on her behalf. More important, he thinks he can take on Mr Azmin.

What happened in the last few days was being done with an eye on the party election that is due to take place later this year.

The Dr Wan Azizah-Rafizi camp wants their people as elected representatives so that their camp will have the upper hand in the party polls.

The candidates list is finally signed and sealed and the internal strife is not expected to have much effect on their supporters in Selangor.

But it will be a challenging road ahead for Mr Azmin.

There will be a fresh round of intense infighting over the Selangor Menteri Besar post if PKR does well and Pakatan retains the state.