Rafizi Ramli goes to Putrajaya (again) - Commander S THAYAPARAN (Retired) Royal Malaysian Navy
Thursday, March 17, 2022
Malaysiakini : “No, sir, I'm afraid not, no sir. I yielded the floor once before, if
you can remember, and I was practically never heard of again. No sir.
And we might as well all get together on this yielding business right
off the bat, now.” – Mr Smith Goes to Washington
COMMENT | Rafizi Ramil has chosen to reenter the political fray when PKR’s stock is at its lowest.
often described as the weak link in Pakatan Harapan, has not only
suffered electoral setbacks but is considered a party incapable of
leadership because the prime minister in perpetual waiting, Anwar
Ibrahim, has made moves that have not only destabilised his party but
also threatened the viability of the coalition he supposedly leads.
In his posting about his return to active political life, Rafizi made
it clear he wants to stake out the multiethnic middle ground. What this
means remains to be seen, especially since the political dynamic of the
various political parties in Harapan adhere to the old Umno/BN formula
which Harapan (especially the DAP) always downplays with the Bangsa
Rafizi has already fired his opening salvo,
eliciting various responses from various groups within Harapan, about
teaming up with Perikatan Nasional for the next election, which he
described as “madness”.
together like frightened children is not a new electoral strategy. It
is as though Harapan was never confident in its ability to galvanise a
majority of the electorate for political power.
The first time Rafizi went for the number two post in PKR (which he lost) in 2018, he said this of the supposed big tent strategy.
the last two or three years, PKR has had a disagreement about how we
would move forward to face GE14. One school of thought, which is
identified with me, believed that we must strengthen Harapan by
remaining true to our ideals of a multiracial party.
school of thought is associated with Azmin Ali and his team - Zuraida
(Kamaruddin), S Sivarasa and Tian Chua - that we must avoid
three-cornered fights and it is important to get closer to the so-called
Malay axis. That PKR had to move closer to PAS and away from Harapan.
schools of thought brought contention in the party. But instead of
breaking PKR, what happened after GE14 is PKR got stronger and we all
focused on our areas of expertise.”
Well, we all know how that ended, right?
Azmin vs Rafizi
Back in the day someone once asked me who do I prefer, Azmin or Rafizi?
said, in a perfect world, they would be working together. Both have
demonstrated a remarkable ability to remain relevant and contribute to
Malay politics in a way that is - unfortunately - essential in running
this country. Azmin plays it close to his chest, while Rafizi puts it
many people like it when I say that Azmin’s sin was not that he wanted
to supplant Anwar - if Anwar could not hold on to his power that's on
him - but rather he went outside the PKR family to gain power. You never
go outside the family.
I get that Rafizi is beloved by
progressive Malays and non-Malays but the question remains, will his
“school of thought” resonate with the majority Malays which he needs to
court for electoral victory?
More importantly, how would this
translate when it comes to his belief in the multiethnic middle-ground
politic? To this, we should add that when Rafizi criticises PKR, it is
welcomed with open arms, but supposing he is critical of the DAP, then
We have seen how DAP and its base does not accept
criticism well, and if there is blowback, then this will turn into a
racial issue and propagandists in the Malay establishment will use it as
just another example of how nobody can work with the “Chinese DAP”.
how is Rafizi, especially in a position of influence, going to counter
the religiosity and racism of the Malay establishment under the guise of
Malay rights? How would he balance needed reform and the corruption of
entitlement programmes while adhering to an egalitarian framework?
is important because if he destabilises PKR, it would just further
erode the political party as a viable option for the Malay community.
level politics and issues are far removed from national issues and if
Rafizi can balance his multiethnic agenda with all politics being local,
this would indeed be an impressive feat. More importantly, he needs
support within PKR to maintain this balance and already the knives are
out and the various power groups within PKR are plotting their next
Rafizi does understand the problems faced by the Malay
community and the failure of Harapan. In 2017, in a roundtable
discussion, his words
sound prophetic: “We don’t understand that Malay voters need more than
just talk. Telling people that Najib is going to bring us down is not
“Why do we lack credibility? We have been out of touch, to the point of being condescending.
just have to convince the people enough that we can do a better job. We
must honestly accept failings and offer solutions that may be
When Rafizi said,
“So, if they (Malays) were to choose, they would rather choose someone
they can trust. If we were to change from one product to another, we
want to be sure the substitute of the product can bring better value to
you,” this is something that I have been going on about for years, which
is there is no real alternative in what Harapan is offering, so why not
choose the original?
Controversial strategies needed
lies the problem. Harapan needs controversial strategies - in the
Malaysian context that is - but will Rafizi be able to convince PKR and
the grassroots that controversial is the way to go, especially in this
political terrain where former prime minister Najib Abdul Razak and Co
have demonstrated that they can win elections even though they lead as
the court cluster?
not only has to contend with desperate power players within his own
party, but he also needs to consider elements in the DAP and Amanah who
have agendas of their own.
Rafizi’s return is not about policy.
Not yet anyway. It is about how he can navigate the political terrain of
Harapan and remember he failed the last time.
Is the situation
different now that Azmin and his base are not around? I have no doubt
that Azmin still has allies within PKR and all these strategies which
Rafizi rightly deemed “madness” are being pushed by loyalists who have
the ear of Anwar. I could be wrong but there are many more Grima
Wormtongues in PKR than there are Eowyns.
Are some people pinning
their hopes on one man? That is a good question which is certainly a lot
more complicated than it sounds. The reality is that political parties
either coalesce around a galvanising idea or individual. In Malaysian
politics, it is the strongman-type leader which is often what the
electorate grabs onto.
Rafizi is right about personality politics,
but his big ideas depend on the political brand he creates and how he
manages to manoeuvre in the treacherous world of PKR politics. You need a
strong personality to do that, especially since you have a generation
of young leaders who want to “inherit” from their elders instead of
taking over and establishing a political agenda of their own.
Rafizi's contention that he does not want to rock the boat by not gunning for the top job is unconvincing. As is his contention that it is not important who leads the party.
does not mean that I think that Rafizi should be gunning for the top
spot, only that playing it safe when PKR desperately needs leadership is
politics as usual for PKR, which is something I assumed Rafizi was
rightfully trying to subvert.Rafizi cannot be all things to all
It remains to be seen if he can be a unifying and reformative
force in PKR and not just a disruptive one.