Malaysia's 'princess of reform' Nurul Izzah quits PKR party posts

Ms Nurul Izzah Anwar meeting residents at a night market in Permatang Pauh in Penang in May, ahead of the general election. The three-term MP, who currently represents Permatang Pauh, did not explain why she was resigning, but said she would continue
Ms Nurul Izzah Anwar meeting residents at a night market in Permatang Pauh in Penang in May, ahead of the general election. The three-term MP, who currently represents Permatang Pauh, did not explain why she was resigning, but said she would continue to serve as an MP and as a member of the parliamentary backbench.ST FILE PHOTO

Shock move by Anwar's daughter Nurul Izzah raises questions about internal party strife

Malaysian politician Nurul Izzah Anwar yesterday quit her posts in Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR), a shocking move that has raised questions about internal party strife and whether defecting opposition MPs would be welcomed into ruling coalition Pakatan Harapan, of which PKR is a member.

The scion of prime minister-in-waiting and PKR president Anwar Ibrahim and Deputy Prime Minister Wan Azizah Wan Ismail was formerly one of four elected PKR vice-presidents, and the party's state chief in Penang.

"I am resigning as vice-president of the People's Justice Party, and relinquish my appointment as the chair of Keadilan Penang," Ms Nurul Izzah said in a statement, using the English name of PKR. "I will also no longer serve the federal government in any capacity."

The three-term MP, who currently represents Permatang Pauh in Penang, did not explain why she was resigning, but said she would continue to serve as an MP and as a member of the parliamentary backbench.

"There are beliefs and ideals I hold dear, and I feel that I can be most true to them by taking this course of action I am now announcing," she said.

"My only regret is that I should have made this announcement sooner, but it has not been an easy decision to arrive at."

Dubbed "puteri reformasi" (princess of reform) after campaigning for her father's release from prison two decades ago, Ms Nurul Izzah, 38, first stood for election in 2008, and had since risen through the party ranks.

But not everyone within PKR was happy with her political ascent.

 

"The appointment of Nurul Izzah... as Penang state chief by the party president, who is her father, is highly inappropriate and open to the charge of nepotism," Datuk Seri Anwar's lawyer Latheefa Koya, a PKR member, said yesterday, ahead of Ms Nurul Izzah's announcement.

"It is needless to say that the practice of appointing close relatives to important positions should have no place in a reformist party."

Ms Nurul Izzah was visibly distraught at last month's party convention after a fractious and occasionally violent internal election that pitted Economic Affairs Minister Azmin Ali against Mr Rafizi Ramli, who is widely known to have the support of Ms Nurul Izzah and Datuk Seri Anwar.

"Of course anyone would be distraught. People should be focusing on strengthening our party," she told reporters then, adding that she did not like to see the party going through such a "difficult and arduous process, which is flawed".

Datuk Seri Azmin had edged out Mr Rafizi to retain the party's deputy presidency.

Her colleagues from the PH coalition appeared surprised at her resignation.

Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia's Supreme Council member Rais Hussin said on Twitter that Ms Nurul Izzah would likely retract her party resignation. She responded swiftly with: "Kindly refrain from ever commenting on my behalf."

PKR deputy president Azmin could not offer an explanation for Ms Nurul Izzah's decision, saying: "I will try to talk to her and understand what really happened."

Meanwhile Mr Rafizi tweeted: "She is not withdrawing from politics. I read it as a decision to retain the idealism of the struggle amid the political chaos."

Ms Nurul Izzah's decision comes a day after she reacted negatively to a question about recent party-hopping attempts by Umno politicians, who have left the former ruling party en masse to defect to PH parties.

"Betrayal of mandate given the 9th of May, insults those who are loyal to the cause," she wrote, referring to the date of the recent general election which PH won. "There is no meaning to democracy if Malaysia is governed by elite-based politicking."

Despite being seen as a stand-in for her father when she first contested in 2008, Ms Nurul Izzah has emerged from her parents' shadows to become a respected and well-liked politician.

However, she has taken a step back since PH's historic win at the polls in May this year, some say for her father to take centre stage.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 18, 2018, with the headline 'Malaysia's 'princess of reform' quits PKR party posts'. Print Edition | Subscribe