With a ‘Supporter’ Like Zaid, Pakatan Needs No Enemies

By Kee Thuan Chye

What the hell is Zaid Ibrahim doing? He claims, in a Q&A with theSun, that he’s a Pakatan Rakyat supporter and yet he has declared his intention to stand in the upcoming Kajang by-election against Pakatan’s de facto leader, Anwar Ibrahim.

This is downright contradictory. It also gives the impression that he might be trying to settle an old score with Anwar’s Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR), and even Anwar himself.

Many of us would remember that in 2010, while he himself was a member of PKR, Zaid publicly criticised the party and sullied its image. He displayed his egotism by brazenly calling on Anwar to step down as PKR’s leader and offering himself as successor. “I’ll be a good leader,” he boasted. But the party didn’t entertain him and he quit, with much bile and fanfare, to start his own mosquito party, Kita (Parti Kesejahteraan Insan Tanah Air).

He didn’t last long as Kita’s chief, quitting less than two years after he had founded it. During that time, he had a falling-out with his fellow party leaders and even announced disbanding the party but later changed his mind. This prompted his party chiefs to declare that they wanted him out.

Then in January 2013, he announced that he was quitting politics to concentrate on business. This came about two months after he had offered himself to Pakatan as a candidate for the 13th general election. As it turned out, Pakatan didn’t take up his offer. Indeed, by then, he had shown he was not a team player, he couldn’t stay at something long enough, and he kept flip-flopping on his political decisions.

And now he wants to come back to politics? Should the constituents of Kajang entrust their votes to someone who has been noted to be a quitter? Someone who hasn’t shown a solid track record as a people’s representative or the ability to last the course?

More important, what is his motive for coming back? And particularly for standing in the Kajang by-election?

In his official declaration to stand, he said it was to uphold the principles of a healthy democracy and to help ensure that Khalid Ibrahim continues as Menteri Besar of Selangor instead of having Anwar replace him.

But, first, why should he be concerned about this?

Second, why is he now coming out to fight for Khalid’s preservation when on February 2, he had tweeted in Malay that “Anwar made the right decision to be MB. A tiger must face a lion, then the people will be comfortable.”?

Why has he now changed his tune and said that during his by-election campaign, he would alert Pakatan supporters of the dangers of changing the current MB? What happened to the original belief in the tiger facing the lion?

Doesn’t this seriously call into question Zaid’s consistency?

He also says that he is standing in the by-election because he wants to end primitive politics in Malaysia. During his campaign, he would address “the numerous political and economic issues the country is facing”, the ‘Allah’ controversy, the need for programmes to help the young build skills, for a federal law addressing the conversion of Muslims, for a Race Relations Act, and for a new Attorney-General.

It looks like he is still thinking like the former Cabinet minister he was – about federal issues. But then he is not standing for Parliament but for a state seat. So even if he were to win the by-election, how would he be able to bring about the realisation of those things he addresses?

He also says he would tell Muslim voters that moving the country towards a theocracy “only means another round of authoritarian rule” so we should remain “a secular democracy under the rule of law”. And he would tell Umno supporters that Prime Minister Najib Razak “is more sensible and moderate than the other leaders they have, so there is no need to oust him”. (Although when Najib was proposed as prime minister to succeed Abdullah Badawi, Zaid urged the King not to appoint him, and instead appoint someone else from Umno.)

Is he for real? Are these issues of primary concern to the state? Perhaps he should just stick to writing his blog. Some of his posts on current issues have been sensible – and welcome. They would have more credibility if he were to remain outside of politics. His readers would see him as a commentator devoid of vested political interests. He might be better thought of as a blogger than a wishy-washy politician.

Besides, how could he seriously think he can win Kajang? He couldn’t even beat the tyro P. Kamalanathan when they faced off in the Hulu Selangor by-election in 2010. Despite the seat having been a PKR seat and he was standing on a PKR ticket, backed by the Pakatan government of Selangor.

What have his achievements been? He got into politics only in 2000, joining Umno, and was elected MP for Kota Baru in 2004, when Malaysians were eager to give Badawi a strong mandate. In 2005, his party found him guilty of money politics and that eventually led to his being suspended for 18 months. He was not selected as a candidate for the following 2008 general election. Afterwards, Badawi made him a senator in order to appoint him a minister in the Prime Minister’s Department. He lasted only six months. In September 2008, he quit as minister on account of the Government’s use of the Internal Security Act (ISA) to detain three Malaysians. On top of having been frustrated by his unsuccessful attempts to initiate reform within the Cabinet.

Imagine that: If he couldn’t bring about reform as a minister, how does he hope to do so as a state assemblyman of Selangor? And as an independent to boot, without the backing of a large political grouping?

But first, would he be a match for Anwar? He doesn’t come across as being a dynamic person. He lacks passion when he speaks in his laid-back, low-key tones. You don’t get a sense of energy about him; he seems to lack it. No wonder he admits to not liking ceramahs because after speaking for 20 minutes, he says he gets tired.

So how can he hold a candle to Anwar? Not just as a speaker or electoral opponent but, more importantly, as a mover and shaker?

Still, he might get some votes – from confused voters, from those who are foolhardy to buy into his so-called attempt to keep Khalid as MB, from those who think they are being righteous in punishing PKR for forcing the by-election by getting the incumbent assemblyman, Lee Chin Cheh, to resign in order to make way for Anwar.

The way it looks, he might just be taking away the votes that could have otherwise gone to Anwar. And if he manages to take away enough of these, Barisan Nasional might even end up the winner.

Is that what Zaid Ibrahim really wants? As a self-admitted supporter of Pakatan Rakyat?

* Kee Thuan Chye is the author of the book The Elections Bullshit, available in bookstores.