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Selangor leadership crisis far from over

26 Aug Selangor leadership crisis far from over

Malaysia’s richest state Selangor is gripped with one of the most protracted leadership crises in recent memories, and the bitter feud is sure to erode public confidence in the opposition Pakatan Rakyat (PR) coalition, which has taken the helm of Selangor since 2008 thanks to fervent votes from Malaysia’s opposition fans.

The Selangor state government was thrown into disarray when incumbent chief minister Abdul Khalid Ibrahim sacked half of his exco members, after he himself was sacked by his party, the Anwar Ibrahim-led Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR). PKR is one of the three component parties in the opposition alliance. The other two are the Chinese-based Democratic Action Party (DAP) and the Muslim-based Parti Islam SeMalaysia (PAS).

While PKR’s move was firmly backed by DAP, it was publicly contested by PAS. PKR and DAP agreed that the dismissal of Mr Khalid, a prominent CEO-turned-politician known for his lone-ranger style in policy-making, was necessary. The PAS leadership, on the other hand, argued that Mr Khalid should be allowed to complete his term since he was democratically elected by the people.

An uneasy consensus 

The three coalition partners have since agreed on the ouster to prevent an irretrievable fallout, but the consensus was an uneasy one. For one, PAS was uncomfortable with PKR’s nomination of Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail, Mr Anwar’s wife and regular stand-in, as the new chief minister. Analysts broadly agree that PAS is not ready for a woman leader, especially one who would serve as an Anwar proxy.

Even as PAS later came to give in to PKR’s choice, its president Hadi Awang was conspicuously absent from the press conference when that decision was announced. Some PAS assemblymen also continued to speak well of Mr Khalid’s no nonsense governance, despite having reached an agreement to back Dr Wan Azizah.

Voter goodwill in decline 

Mr Khalid’s political future remains unclear at this stage. A motion of no-confidence could be passed against him if the Selangor Sultan (head of state) calls for an emergency state assembly sitting. He could also call for snap polls if the Sultan allows him to dissolve the assembly.

More certainly, the strong brand of Pakatan Rakyat has suffered substantial damage since the onset of the Khalid episode. A sentiment study  by social media analysis agency Politweet on some 2,600 randomly selected Twitter users showed that more users preferred to keep Mr Khalid as chief minister than otherwise despite PKR and DAP leaders’ blistering attacks against his integrity. This goes to show, to some extent, that the unquestioning support that Pakatan once commanded has clearly weakened even among some diehard opposition fans, who once pinned their hopes on the opposition as a viable alternative government that stood for transparency and accountability.

Restoring public trust has to be Pakatan Rakyat’s top priority, but it won’t be a piece of cake for the coalition.

Sources: 

Sentiment analysis on Selangor menteri besar (chief minister) crisis [Politweet, 19 Aug 2014]

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons