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 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.