Every Friday night, I play basketball with a bunch of my friends. Many of us have been playing together for 20 years since our university days. We used to talk about girls back in the day and naturally, we have now progressed to talking about, what else, politics!
Last week, they all ganged up on me during our regular mamak session after our game. They wanted me to write about the topic that is on everyone’s minds and that is the coming Port Dickson by-election and Anwar Ibrahim.
And so our mamak session began.
I had written in a previous instalment of my column on how the public has the perception that Anwar is just too impatient in wanting to be the prime minister, and that is why PKR has decided that PD MP Danyal Balagopal Abdullah should vacate his seat to let Anwar contest it.
We all know that even before the general election last May, the Pakatan Harapan coalition already had in its plan for Anwar to succeed Dr Mahathir Mohamed as prime minister if they were to win the election. It was one of their campaign promises.
The only problem right now is that many people feel Anwar should just sit tight and wait his turn. This is not the right time for him to start pushing himself into government, the cabinet and eventually the prime ministership.
The Harapan government is still facing too many teething problems and the last they need is for Anwar to stir the muck. What would probably be best is for him to take a back seat (as he had stated when he was first pardoned and released from prison) for now.
Civil society has been vocal about this. Stevie Chan @youtiup @tapaimalaya has quite a following on Twitter and regular comments on local politics and social issues. He has decided to run as an independent candidate in PD to send that message to Anwar.
To date, several online surveys have already shown that Chan is leading in the popularity contest against Anwar. Other civil society groups have also expressed concern and displeasure, such as army veterans, and more recently, the “super liberals”.
These were all issues that my basketball buddies were talking about. But the main issue we were wondering is what would happen if Anwar loses in the by-election. To date, Anwar has never suffered a defeat in any election, and he mostly won with big margins.
This time around, the situation is a bit different. His party has already won and is a member of the ruling coalition. It is very unfortunate that he was in prison when this happened, hence he could not be a candidate, which in turn cost him his chance to be in the government, either as prime minister or a member of the cabinet.
Of course, everyone acknowledges his struggle and many Malaysians are very thankful for what he has done to bring change. For all those who voted for Harapan, they agree that he needed to be pardoned and released – and which he already has – immediately after Harapan’s win.
20 years of struggle
Anwar’s struggle ever since he was sacked as deputy prime minister in 1998 has been a long one. Twenty years to be exact. As much as he is a good political leader that has managed to rally the people together, he never could match what Mahathir has done – win the general election.
This is not to say that his struggle has played no role in Harapan finally winning. It definitely played a major role. But after 20 years, maybe his role was just that – to start the wheel rolling, make sure it keeps rolling, and when it has arrived at the destination, his role ends.
A good example to compare this with is DAP veteran Lim Kit Siang. He has been fighting as the opposition for close to 60 years and was even the opposition leader for decades. If we look at his struggle (he has been jailed several times too), wouldn’t he also deserve to be prime minister?
But he knew that his time is up and that his role was only to a certain point. He has even made way for others to take on the leadership in his own party. He continues to be a very important senior member, but other more relevant leaders are now driving the struggle.
If Anwar loses in the Port Dickson by-election next month, it will most probably prove that his prime time may be up and that he may not be as relevant anymore. He will then have to concede and make way for new leadership (or old) and position his struggle in a different way.
But Anwar is still is a very popular figure and seen by many as the one who really started it all. So he still has a high chance of winning. Indeed, there is a real possibility of him winning. He definitely seems to be very confident.
As for my basketball buddies and I, it’s Friday yet again and we have another game. After that, it’s to the mamak for our weekly session of politics talk. So let me pose this question out there to the readers so you all can join in on our weekly chats – what do you all think will happen if Anwar loses (or wins)?
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