The epic bat­tle rum­bles on

It’s a tight fight but some are say­ing should Rafizi Ramli beat Azmin Ali in the PKR deputy pres­i­dent race, it would be a po­lit­i­cal ab­nor­mal­ity.

The Star Malaysia - - Focus - pgolin­gai@thes­ Philip Golin­gai

THE Ju­lau PKR divi­sion is a po­lit­i­cal ab­nor­mal­ity.

In 2014, 16 PKR mem­bers out of 635 from the Ju­lau divi­sion in Sarawak voted in the party polls. In the PKR deputy pres­i­dent con­test, Datuk Seri Mo­hamed Azmin Ali re­ceived seven votes, Tan Sri Khalid Ibrahim (nine) and Datuk Sai­fud­din Na­su­tion (zero).

In 2018, the Ju­lau PKR mem­ber­ship surged to 13,000, giv­ing it more mem­bers than the 30 PKR divi­sions in Sarawak com­bined.

About 84% (more than 11,000 peo­ple) of its mem­ber­ship was reg­is­tered us­ing 11 ad­dresses.

The 13,000 new Ju­lau PKR mem­bers are half of the 25,380 vot­ers in the Ju­lau par­lia­men­tary con­stituency.

Al­legedly, hun­dreds of the new mem­bers – in­clud­ing Meluan as­sem­bly­man Rol­land Duat Ju­bin of Pro­gres­sive Demo­cratic Party – have claimed they did not ap­ply to join the party.

On Nov 3, the Malaysian An­tiCor­rup­tion Com­mis­sion (MACC) in­ves­ti­gated Ju­lau MP Larry Sng, who be­came a PKR mem­ber af­ter GE14, over al­le­ga­tions of thou­sands of phan­tom mem­bers.

Larry, who is vy­ing to be Ju­lau PKR chief, is with the team led by Rafizi Ramli.

On Wed­nes­day night, the PKR cen­tral lead­er­ship coun­cil de­cided that the new mem­ber­ship ap­pli­ca­tions of the Ju­lau divi­sion were valid. PKR lead­ers aligned with Team Azmin cried foul over the de­ci­sion.

With the PKR cen­tral lead­er­ship le­git­imis­ing the 13,000 vot­ers, Ju­lau is set to be the king­maker in the Azmin vs Rafizi nasty fight to be the party’s deputy pres­i­dent.

So far, (give or take divi­sion polls that have been de­clared null and void) two-term in­cum­bent Azmin re­ceived 59,594 votes (51.38%) while the chal­lenger Rafizi got 56,392 votes (48.62%). The mar­gin is 3,202 votes.

Con­ven­tional wis­dom says that a large num­ber of the Ju­lau PKR mem­bers were likely to vote for Rafizi as the hands be­hind their reg­is­tra­tion were the Sng fam­ily – Datuk Sng Chee Wah, a ty­coon and vet­eran Sarawak politi­cian, and his son, Larry.

The Sng fam­ily are aligned with Team Rafizi via PKR pres­i­dent-elect Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim.

Yes­ter­day, re­port on the ground say that 90% of the vot­ers in Ju­lau wore a yel­low t-shirt which is the colour of Team Sng. Sng se­nior was seen chat­ting with Rafizi near the polling sta­tion.

Po­lit­i­cal an­a­lyst Dr Ma­zlan Ali of Univer­siti Te­knologi Malaysia sees Ju­lau as the most in­ter­est­ing PKR divi­sion be­cause of the sig­nif­i­cant spike in its mem­ber­ship. It is also in­ter­est­ing, he said, be­cause Larry had stated he was sup­port­ing Team Rafizi.

“The Deputy Prime Min­is­ter, Datuk Seri Dr Wan Az­izah Wan Is­mail had her­self gone to Ju­lau (this week). Giv­ing the per­cep­tion she is cam­paign­ing for Rafizi,” he said.

Ma­zlan be­lieves that Ju­lau will be the de­cider in the deputy pres­i­dent fight if Rafizi gets 65% of the divi­sion votes. “It looks like Ju­lau is the king­maker,” he said.

The Ju­lau vot­ers, ac­cord­ing to po­lit­i­cal re­searcher and for­mer Univer­siti Te­knologi Malaysia’s As­so­ciate Pro­fes­sor Ab­dul Lat­iff Mohd Ibrahim, played an es­sen­tial role in de­cid­ing who will be­come PKR deputy pres­i­dent.

“With such a huge num­ber, if they all come out to vote and if Rafizi suc­ceeds in win­ning them over, it may de­cide the out­come. Pro­vided, of course, for the divi­sions go­ing for a re-vote are split evenly be­tween the con­tenders,” he said.

This week­end, sev­eral divi­sions go to the polls.

Yes­ter­day, e-vot­ing started in Sarawak PKR in­clud­ing the Ju­lau divi­sion.

In Sabah which PKR held its state-wide polls last week, three divi­sions – Keningau (post­poned be­cause of fight­ing dur­ing polling and Rafizi was al­legedly punched from be­hind), Pen­sian­gan and Tawau have to re-vote.

Kuala Se­lan­gor in Se­lan­gor and six divi­sions in Me­laka have to hold their elec­tions again.

On who will win the PKR deputy pres­i­dent post, Ab­dul Lat­iff said it was go­ing to be close.

So far, he ex­plains, the results have been a see-saw with the Eco­nomic Af­fairs Min­is­ter taking some states and the for­mer Pan­dan MP win­ning other states.

“But with the news that the Ju­lau PKR divi­sion in Sarawak has the largest num­ber of votes in that state and given the chal­lenger’s strong cam­paign­ing, one may see an up­set,” he said.

“Of course, the in­cum­bent led by over 3,000 votes but we also have to con­sider that be­sides Sarawak state, other divi­sions were go­ing for re-vote.

“Hence, Rafizi is go­ing to give a very strong chal­lenge and if the fi­nal lap favours him, there may be an up­set. But that is still too early to tell,” he said on Fri­day.

Af­ter the vot­ing in Penin­su­lar Malaysia, said Ma­zlan, Azmin surged ahead of Rafizi with a con­vinc­ing ma­jor­ity. And af­ter the results in Sabah, Team Azmin dom­i­nated, he said.

“But I feel Rafizi still has the op­por­tu­nity to win be­cause the ma­jor­ity Azmin re­ceived can be over­come by Rafizi in Sarawak es­pe­cially in Ju­lau,” he said.

On who will win the PKR deputy pres­i­dent post, Ma­zlan said Azmin had a greater chance. But it did not mean Rafizi could not pull off a big sur­prise.

On al­le­ga­tions of cheat­ing by Team Azmin and Team Rafizi in the PKR polls, Ab­dul Lat­iff said it was ex­pected.

“In an epic bat­tle like this where the stakes are so high, all means would be em­ployed to en­sure that the can­di­date wins.

“Of course, some may be okay, as it hap­pens in all po­lit­i­cal con­tests, but back­hand and dirty tac­tics to deny one’s op­po­nent would be ques­tion­able,” he said.

“From the start, there have been al­le­ga­tions of foul play, in some deny­ing the chal­lenger what ap­peared to him would have been his right. But you can­not clap with one hand; hence both camps should be scru­ti­nised.”

Con­sid­er­ing the stiff fight that was taking place, said Ab­dul Lat­iff, it was up to the PKR cen­tral elec­tion com­mit­tee to en­sure that the con­test was not marred by ir­reg­u­lar­i­ties.

But he added so far, it ap­peared that the com­mit­tee had not been very ef­fec­tive.

“How­ever, since both camps have come up with al­le­ga­tions of wrong­do­ing, then at least this body can­not be said to be par­ti­san in the on­go­ing elec­tion,” he said.

The al­le­ga­tions of cheat­ing, ac­cord­ing to Ma­zlan, was the re­sult of the tense fight be­tween Azmin and Rafizi. “Through­out the con­test, we could see both sides ‘chas­ing’ each other to nar­row the ma­jor­ity gap,” he said.

If Rafizi does win the chase to be PKR deputy pres­i­dent, it can be called the Ju­lau sur­prise and po­lit­i­cal ab­nor­mal­ity would have won.

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