Commentary Politics

When grassroots talk, Anwar should listen

Zaidi Azmi
Written by Zaidi Azmi

April 14, 2018

A commentary by Zaidi Azmi

IN november last year a PKR branch chief from Rantau had warned his party’s upper echelons against fielding Dr S. Streram as candidate for yesterday’s by-election in Rantau as the latter was not a winnable candidate.

Two months ago, the party’s grassroots members there had reiterated the same warning, arguing that pitting Dr Streram against Barisan Nasional’s (BN) Datuk Seri Mohamad Hasan was like sending a lamb to the slaughter.

But PKR president Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim did not listen to the advice and true enough, Dr Streram suffered a trouncing defeat at yesterday’s poll.

Why Anwar turned a deaf ear to the voice of his own party members is anybody’s guess but had the reverse happened, Anwar’s position as the next prime-minister would have likely been quite cemented.

The logic, as spoken by many PKR members who have been canvassing the locals in Rantau since the past two weeks, was that Dr Streram’s victory would earn Anwar “the ultimate bragging rights” to those who doubted his mettle to be the next prime minister.

“Anwar will be known as the person who led a non-Malay to win in a Malay majority against a very influential incumbent who is also Umno’s de facto number one. If that isn’t PM material then I do not know what is,” said a PKR member before polling day.

The fact that Anwar has been pulling out all the stops in campaigning for Dr Streram to the point of almost completely overshadowing the latter seemed to strengthen such a notion.

But since Mohamad won the by-election, Anwar will probably be remembered for his gaffe of not heeding the voice on the ground and fielded a candidate that everyone knew was going to lose since day one.

Surely, this isn’t a quality one would want a prime minister to have right?

BN’s hat-trick victory

It was BN’s third consecutive victory and the popular contention being floated about right now was one suggesting that the coalition’s upset defeat in the May 9 poll last year was a mere one-hit-wonder.

As it was the case in the Cameron Highlands and Semenyih by-elections, many had attributed the Pas-Umno cooperation as the winning formula in Rantau but those on the ground would have noticed that Pas’ machinery played little role in this election.

The symbiosis between the three founding parties of BN; Umno, MCA and MIC, were, as proven in the Rantau by-election, still very much intact and well-oiled despite the prickly relationship of the three parties’ leaders when Umno was courting Pas’ aid late last year.

To rely more on MIC and MCA’s machinery in Rantau makes sense as Pas was never known to have strong political clout in not just Negeri Sembilan but the remaining two southern states in the country -Melaka and Johor- as well.

All hands were on deck this time. Even Mohamad’s wife, Datin Seri Salbiah Tenku Nujumuddin and the wife of MCA president Datuk Seri Dr Wee Ka Siong, Datin Seri Jessica Lim Hai Ean, have also rolled-up their sleeves and went on a door-to-door canvassing.

The result? BN won at 13 of the 14 voting centres in Rantau. In terms of ballot boxes, the coalition won 47 of 55, including the Chinese majority ones in the Rantau town polling district.

PH’s loss was rather predictable. It repeated its aged politics of hatred, blame game and poo-flinging and while these tactics were very effective when it was the opposition, it has become ever so clear that it will no longer work now that it is in charge of the country.

In his statement, Anwar seemed aware of the people’s beef with the government, which essentially concerns that of bread and butter issues, but this was a sound bite that he has been repeating since PH lost the Cameron Highlands and Semenyih by-elections.

Things are looking pretty dicey for Anwar’s political future.

His first solo-attempt to flex his proverbial muscle ended rather miserably, resulting a fistfight between his KL and Rantau members following accusations from the former that the latter had done a poor job in campaigning.

At every election rally in Rantau, Anwar had never failed to mention his supposedly impending prime minister-ship, so much so that it sounded as if it was him that he was trying to convince, not us.



About the author

Zaidi Azmi

Zaidi Azmi

If Zaidi Azmi isn’t busy finding his way in the city, this 26-year-old northern kampung boy can be found struggling to make sense of the Malaysian political scene. Zaidi can be reached at