Blow for Anwar as his pick fails to become Melaka senator

KUALA LUMPUR • A motion to nominate Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) president Anwar Ibrahim's choice as Melaka's representative to the federal Senate was stunningly defeated yesterday after two assemblymen from his party were absent during the vote.

The failure of the Pakatan Harapan (PH) Melaka government's motion comes amid a bitter feud between Datuk Seri Anwar and PKR deputy chief Azmin Ali. The two camps had clashed over the validity of last weekend's Sarawak state-level annual congress.

Melaka Chief Minister Adly Zahari, from PH component Parti Amanah Negara, holds a narrow two-seat majority in the 28-strong legislative, with one of his state Cabinet members (known as executive councillors, or exco), Saminathan Ganesan, detained under security laws owing to alleged links to terror group Tamil Tigers.

But with two PKR exco absent, the party's Melaka chief Halmi Bachik failed to be elected as one of the state's two senators as all 13 assemblymen from the opposition Umno voted against him.

Mr Adly told a press conference that his government will hold a "post-mortem" on the loss, as well as the absence of the two PKR representatives. "I did not expect this decision but I do not see any elements of sabotage," he said.

But a top PKR official from Economic Affairs Minister Azmin's faction told The Straits Times they had already informed the chief minister they would not support Mr Anwar's choice for the vacant senatorship.

"We gave him a different candidate but he decided to proceed with Halim," said the source.

The rare defeat for a sitting government comes even as rumours have swirled in the past month that Mr Adly could face a confidence vote, although he successfully negotiated the state budget last week.

The Anwar-Azmin feud has raised doubts over whether Mr Anwar will eventually succeed Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, as agreed by PH leaders prior to their general election win last year.

While Mr Anwar has repeatedly said he expects to be premier when the PH government turns two, Tun Dr Mahathir has only committed to stepping down before the next election, with leaders including Datuk Seri Azmin calling for him to stay on until the end of the term.

The failure of the Pakatan Harapan Melaka government's motion comes amid a bitter feud between Datuk Seri Anwar and PKR deputy chief Azmin Ali. The two camps had clashed over the validity of last weekend's Sarawak state-level annual congress.

Mr Azmin had a meeting with a reported 22 Umno MPs last week and his supporters in the party, including Sarawak chief Baru Bian, have reacted angrily to the deputy president being denied the customary honour of opening the youth wing's national congress next month.

Works Minister Baru and most PKR divisional leaders in Sarawak had insisted ahead of last weekend's state convention that the event had been cancelled, but those loyal to Mr Anwar proceeded, with the president himself officiating at the event.

Mr Anwar's faction appeared to respond on Sunday to Mr Azmin's apparent show of strength with the sacking of Mr Baru's former political secretary Zakaria Hamid from the party over allegations of graft.

Mr Azmin's camp has alleged "selective justice" in Mr Zakaria's sacking, with the Melaka vote being the latest volley in the fractious clash.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 26, 2019, with the headline 'Blow for Anwar as his pick fails to become Melaka senator'. Print Edition | Subscribe