Rantau by-election, path for Anwar to become state MB?

Prime Minister to be, Anwar Ibrahim
PKR President Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim. Photo credit: Anwar Ibrahim’s Facebook Page

KUALA LUMPUR, March 6 – With the date for the next by-election in Rantau set for April 13 – nomination day falls on March 30 – the focus now falls on who Pakatan Harapan will choose to stand as its candidate in the Negri Sembilan state seat.

Rantau is the seventh by-election since the 14th general election (GE14) on May 9 last year, with five being state seats and two Parliamentary seats, Port Dickson and Cameron Highlands.

Four of the by-elections were called due to the death of the assemblymen, while the Cameron Highlands and Rantau polls are due to the decision by the Election Court to nullify the result in GE14.

The only exception to the above has been Port Dickson, where the incumbent Danyal Balagopal Abdullah from PKR quit to make way for his party president Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim to return to the Dewan Rakyat, following the latter’s pardon from sodomy conviction last May, after Pakatan Harapan’s historic win in GE14.

A back-up plan for MB post?

Anwar’s name is now being touted to contest the Rantau state seat in the same state as his new parliamentary seat. This is because it would be seen as a chance for him to prove his credentials as a party leader and future prime minister against a former Negri Sembilan menteri besar and current Umno acting president Datuk Seri Mohamad Hasan.

With the PKR candidate who was unlawfully disqualified from contesting the Rantau state seat last May, Dr S. Streram of PKR having already declared his willingness to be overlooked as a candidate this time around, some quarters have speculated on it being due to the choice of candidate being a foregone conclusion.

Some are calling it a fallback solution, similar to the infamous Kajang Move, that will allow for Anwar to become a state MB, in the event that the planned handover of power within two years from Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad does not take place as had been agreed earlier between Pakatan Harapan component parties.

The current composition in the Pakatan Harapan NS state government sees DAP holding 11 seats, with PKR (6) and Amanah (3). However, Umno has the highest number of seats with 14 while MIC has one.

Anwar’s plan to become Selangor MB in 2014

The Kajang Move came about with the Kajang state seat in Selangor being vacated after the incumbent PKR assemblyman, Lee Chin Cheh submitting his resignation to the state assembly on January 27, 2014. It must be noted that Lee had won the seat by a majority of 6,824 votes, against five other candidates, in the 13th general election on May 5, 2013.

Anwar, who was then the opposition leader in the Dewan Rakyat, was quickly confirmed as the candidate. This was part of a grand scheme for Anwar to replace the then Selangor menteri besar Tan Sri Khalid Ibrahim, who was also from PKR.

Unfortunately for Anwar, the Appeals Court moved through with the government’s appeal against his acquittal in the Sodomy 2 case, and on March 7, 2014, he was convicted of having sodomised his former aide, Saiful Bukhari, in 2008.

Flip-flop on backing Streram for Rantau

In November 18 last year, two days after the Election Court had nullified the Rantau election result, Anwar had publicly announced his support for Streram to contest the seat.

“Dr Streram was denied his right to contest by Election Commission officials in GE14. After he was denied that right, he challenged it, and he won the case. It is difficult to brush that aside,” Anwar told PKR members in his first speech as PKR president.

He said this in response to some party members to field either a Malay or woman candidate.

Anwar said Rantau has a high number of Indians, and it is fitting that an Indian candidate be fielded.

“In Rantau, Indians make up the highest number of voters. It is among the highest in the whole of Malaysia,” he was reported to have said.

Rantau has more than 20,000 voters, comprising Malays (50%), Indians (27%), Chinese (19%) and others (1%).

However, there has been an about-turn from his position last November, with Anwar declaring two days ago that the names of several people have been proposed as the Pakatan Harapan (PH) candidate for the upcoming Rantau state by-election.

He said PKR would discuss the matter in detail at a meeting of the PKR Political Bureau which is set to be held today (Wednesday).