Glitches, low turnout mar Malaysia party PKR's polls

Eight divisions of Malaysia opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim's PKR in four states will have to redo their elections. PHOTO: THE STAR

KUALA LUMPUR - Technical glitches and low member turnout have marred internal polls of Malaysian opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim's party, delaying announcement of the voting results.

Dozens of leaders of Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) threw their hat into the ring for key positions in a bid to rejuvenate the opposition party and reverse a sharp drop in public support ahead of Malaysia's next general election.

But with only 8 per cent of members turning up to vote, the effort is off to a weak start.

Political pundits say that internal bickering led to party members, numbering more than a million in total, declining to vote in the election.

Several weaknesses with the party's application that was used for online voting were also raised, including the ability of people to vote multiple times on behalf of others.

"Voters are not given a slip which can limit people to vote only once. The central election committee officials only check the details of members and allow them to vote without observation. This... raises the risk of fraud as a voter can... vote repeatedly on behalf of others," PKR vice-president Rafizi Ramli was quoted as saying by news portal Malaysiakini.

Due to technical glitches and miscommunication issues, eight PKR divisions in four states would have to redo their elections.

Mr Rafizi, a former MP who played a crucial role in raising public awareness of the 1Malaysia Development Berhad scandal, is vying for the No. 2 position of deputy president.

He is up against incumbent secretary-general Saifuddin Nasution Ismail, an Anwar ally.

Mr Rafizi returned to politics after being on hiatus since 2019, following consecutive poor performances by PKR and the larger Pakatan Harapan (PH) coalition in recent state elections.

He is pushing for PKR and PH to stop seeking new partners ahead of the next general election, while Datuk Seri Anwar and his allies have been pushing for a "big tent" approach.

Mr Rafizi had previously claimed that Datuk Seri Saifuddin was the main mover behind discussions in 2020 and 2021 with leaders from rival party Umno, namely Najib Razak and Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, to negotiate for their support to get Mr Anwar elected as prime minister.

This was denied by Mr Saifuddin, who said that these decisions were collectively made by the party leaders and not him.

"The dilemma is Rafizi appears to be more popular outside the party, while Saifuddin is the reverse. A Saiffuddin win will mean status quo for PKR, which is going downhill," Dr Oh Ei Sun, a Singapore Institute of International Affairs senior fellow, told The Straits Times.

"A Rafizi win will be a prelude to a showdown with Anwar, which many outside the party feel is necessary to reinvigorate the party," he said.

The PKR deputy president's post has been vacant since Datuk Seri Azmin Ali was sacked from the party because he took part in the Sheraton Move, which brought down the PH government in February 2020.

The party badly needs an upturn in fortunes - having failed to win any seat at the Melaka and Sarawak legislative elections late last year, and narrowly winning only one seat at the Johor state polls earlier this year.

"It appears that the internal bickering did not stop with Azmin and his team's departure, but continued unabated, with now, for example, a looming showdown between Anwar and Rafizi.

"It does not appear that the party bothers to at least present a picture as to how it intends to move forward," Dr Oh said.

"Many are predicting PKR seats to be either cannibalised by other opposition parties or wrested back by Umno," he added.

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