Friday, December 10, 2010

As Pakatan convention nears, leaders dither on coalition issues

The Pakatan Rakyat (PR) annual convention may just be a week away, but its top leadership has yet to address or decide on various issues, including PAS’s insistence for an Islamic state or its logo and formal registration.
Expectations are running high for the convention next week, the second one PR has held since the 2008 general elections, amid speculations of snap polls as early as March next year.
PR leaders have dubbed the upcoming meet as a “necessity” to reassess and reprioritise on strengthening the coalition, in light of PKR’s recently-concluded fractious party elections, where its members have either left the party or complained of fraud in the elections process.
A recent Universiti Malaya opinion poll has also revealed that 43 per cent of residents in PKR stronghold areas will not support the party in the next general election due to a decline in confidence after its polls last month.
A mere 35 per cent of those polled claimed they would continue to vote for PKR while 22 per cent said they were unsure.
“The upcoming convention is crucial for us to get our act together, to reassess Pakatan’s goals in light of growing speculations of snap elections,” said DAP national publicity secretary Tony Pua (picture).
Pua however said that while PR needed to prepare themselves for the next general elections, having a common logo or pushing for a formal coalition was not “substantive” for an electoral win.
“It is a right to have but it’s not crucial towards a successful coalition. It is more important to concentrate on the common policy platform. If we can arrive at a common policy network it would supercede the idea of a formerly registered coalition. We have already submitted the forms some time back, but it is not a crucial element for us,” said Pua, also pointing out that while BN was formally registered, the federal coalition had “failed” to ensure that its members were treated equally.
Pua’s views was seemingly in tandem with that of PAS president Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang, who had downplayed the need for PR to be formally registered or to have a formal logo before the next general elections.
Hadi (picture left) had last week rubbished talk that PR’s inability to agree on a common logo was a sign of the coalition’s weakness, saying that “logos were not important.”
“Pakatan Rakyat (PR) can form a federal government without having to be (registered) as a formal coalition. We have achieved successes in the past using our current formula,” Hadi told The Malaysian Insider in an interview last week.
Among the criticisms that have been directed towards PR since its loose formation was its constant clashing on several key issues, most notably the issue of an Islamic state which PAS has maintained that it will not back down from. PR’s inability to come to agreement over its official logo since last year’s convention has also been seen as a weak point for the opposition bloc.
BN lawmakers have also, from time and time again attacked the three PR component parties for being unable to decide on common policy issues surrounding its stand on the formation of an Islamic state and as to the top PR leadership should they take over Putrajaya.
“I cannot tell you right now about whether we have come to an agreement on the logo. It’s still some way to go, but we will be announcing something concerning the design of the logo at the upcoming Pakatan convention next weekend.
“We are only an informal coalition because we are not registered, but for all purposes and intentions the coalition has already been formalised. The relationship is real. The only difference between the coalition of BN and PR is that BN is legally registered,” Pua told The Malaysian Insider.
The Petaling Jaya Utara MP insisted that the three PR parties could work effectively together, pointing out the success of PR states like Penang and Selangor as an example.
“We make policies together, for instance the governance of state governments we do it together with polices agreed by all three coalition parties,” added Pua.
The Registrar of Societies (RoS) has been silent on the status of PR’s registration application despite giving a positive response early this year.
It is understood that the RoS last communicated with PR representatives a “few months ago” to suggest changes to the coalition’s name.
Another PR lawmaker, PAS MP Dr Dzulkefly Ahmad (picture right) admitted that there were some leaders within PR who were still unhappy with the idea of a formal coalition.
“There are opinions from other within PR who are a bit resentful of the idea of formalising. It is just like leaders who are anxious about local elections, there are also leaders who do not want to allow local elections.
“Some of our leaders still remain unconvinced as to a formal coalition. You can’t get a 100 percent conviction before going on with something. It’s the same like 2008, before Pakatan Rakyat was formed there was scepticism among some people within PAS, PKR, DAP. There will always be resistance to change... (but) I do not think that this is the most important issue to iron out. They will eventually accept the need for change,’ Dzulkefly told The Malaysian Insider.
When asked whether he agreed with Hadi on the formal coalition issue, Dzulkefly said that Hadi had his “rights to his opinion”, even though Dzulkefly did not necessarily agree with him.
But he too dismissed the urgency for a common logo, saying that a logo was not the “be all and end all for Pakatan.”
PKR vice-president Nurul Izzah Anwar said that PR was aiming to expand the existing Common Policy Framework (CPF) to more specific economic policies, but declined to elaborate on the exact policies, saying that it would be made available during the convention.
“If we are able to forge a clearer common policy, expanding the CPF to something more specific, it would hold sway and attract more voters. That is something which we are looking at,” Nurul Izzah told The Malaysian Insider.
PR filed an application to register as a formal coalition to the RoS in November last year, just a month before it launched a common policy framework at its inaugural convention.
The coalition began as an informal gathering of three parties — PAS-PKR-DAP — in April 2008 following Election 2008.
It currently leads the state administrations of Kelantan, Kedah, Penang and Selangor, and holds 77 parliamentary seats.
The Malaysian Insider understands that several PR leaders were upset with Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim’s recent remarks in saying that DAP advisor Lim Kit Siang was promised the deputy prime minister’s post should the opposition take over Putrajaya.
“The problem is Anwar released this bit of information on his own. In no explicit terms were we made aware that this had been agreed upon,” said a PR source.
Utusan Malaysia claimed two weeks ago that Anwar had promised Lim the post in such an event, prompting a round of denials by opposition leaders.
Anwar later clarified that every coalition leader, regardless of race, had a shot at becoming deputy prime minister, so long as the decision was “made with consensus” among PR component parties.
The source told The Malaysian Insider that some PR leaders were concerned that this latest issue could cause affect PR’s position in Malay-majority areas.
“There will be a PR leadership council meeting this weekend focusing specifically on the convention. If it needs be, we will raise this issue then. Everyone in PR needs to work together so that problems like these can be reduced with minimal effect on PR’s image as a whole. We need to be united, and be seen as united,” added the source.
However, The Malaysian Insider also understands that the convention this weekend will most likely “avoid” touching on sensitive or thorny issues concerning the relationship of the three component parties, and instead will place emphasis on PR states’ a chievements.

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