(Published in the Star on September 24, 2008. Click here for the online version)
You don’t have to be one of the three witches in the tragedy of Macbeth, to accurately predict the political debacle, post 2008 general election. As the dust settles after the election, Pakatan Rakyat has been relentless in criticising the ruling government. The opposition coalition launches attack after attack on economic policies, soaring inflation rates notwithstanding the esteemed growth predicted by the government’s economist and the most controversial use of the infamous Internal Security Act 1960 (ISA) on bloggers and politician – to name a few.
Anwar Ibrahim – who recently resurrected from political incarceration by the previous administration under Tun Dr. Mahathir – declared in no uncertain terms that Pakatan Rakyat will take over the government on the symbolic September 16. Anwar’s confidence was fueled to the inflammatory point after he won the “mother” of all by-elections at Permatang Pauh – a seat of which was vacated by his wife to pave way for him in Parliament.
He held countless press-conferences to that effect sending a shiver down the spine of the ruling Barisan Nasional and its hard-core supporters. Anwar confidently stated that he has enough “defectors” from the ruling coalition to form a simple majority in Parliament thus lending him the ticket to the premiership.
Anwar – an orator by birth – promised, inter-alia, a government for all notwithstanding one’s race, to revamp the New Economic Policy which thus far only benefited the elite Malays. In his bid to sweeten the deal further, Anwar pledged to reduce fuel price at 50 cents lower if Pakatan Rakyat took over the government.
The promises are all music to the people’s ears.
Unfortunately, the much-anticipated September 16 dawned and set as eventless as other ordinary day – to say the least. Anwar fails to publicise the name of the “defectors” as anticipated by many. Prime Minister, Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, publicly called Anwar’s bluff by challenging him to publish the name of the defectors, leaving Anwar tethering at the end of his rope.
September 16 goes down in history as a very bad day for Anwar.
My political stand, however, will never be the same again. To me, Pakatan Rakyat’s larger than life figure, Anwar Ibrahim, is just another consummate political animal who would have given his proverbial right arm to be Prime Minister. His ardent desire to head the country leaves a bitter aftertaste in my mouth. In his rush en route Putrajaya, Anwar betrayed the trust of fence-sitters and some of his supporters as the widely -criticized Barisan Nasional remains in power on September 16.
Post September 16, Anwar’s claim of having more than 30 “defectors” to crossover to his side of the battle sounds rhetoric.
But one must bear in mind that Anwar is just another product of Barisan Nasional’s system. Anwar’s political path is largely formed on Barisan Nasional’s platform. The blue-eyed boy turned nemesis of Tun Dr. Mahathir has a lot to do before Pakatan Rakyat crowns him Prime Minister. He undoubtedly won the affection of the watchful – sometimes down right nosy – international media but Anwar has rooms for improvement at his home soil.
As Anwar’s clock ticks loudly and the patience of the people grows thinner vis-a-vis the current standoff between Anwar and Abdullah, the former has a distinct, but tiny window of opportunity to do the right thing: either walk the talk or shut up.
To sum it up clearly, time is a luxury which Anwar cannot afford. His expensive dream in becoming Prime Minister could render the loosely formed Pakatan Rakyat asunder if he placed a wrong bet on this high stakes power struggle.
As at September 16, 2008 Anwar remains a Prime Minister-in-waiting.