From The Star Online
By Joceline Tan
Although PKR members are disappointed that the party has missed its golden opportunity to form the government, it still has more to crow than to moan about at its first congress after the general election and where frank and critical views will be aired.
DATUK Seri Anwar Ibrahim’s keynote address at the PKR congress this weekend will be the most anticipated speech of the gathering.
As the most central figure in the party and the glue holding together the three Pakatan Rakyat parties, his address will impact his party as well as his coalition partners. Everyone is expecting him to touch on the Sept 16 issue and his continued claims and plans to form the federal government.
Yet, the PKR de facto leader is expected to take only 20 minutes to complete this highly anticipated speech.
“He is crystal clear on what he wants to say,” said his right-hand man Saifuddin Nasution.
Apparently, it was Anwar’s own decision to keep his address brief and to the point.
No other political party in the country features two concurrent highlight speeches at their national annual meetings and it is likely that he also does not wish to steal the thunder from PKR president Datuk Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail’s policy speech.
Besides, there is really not much to explain now that Sept 16 has come and gone. His advisers are not in favour of him setting any new target dates given that the party is still trying to do damage control over the first unfulfilled date.
The more realistic among the PKR leaders know they have missed their golden opportunity to form the government and they will have to wait till the next general election for their chance at power.
Their problem is how to convey this to their supporters out there while maintaining the momentum for change.
Anwar, more than anyone else, understands that politics is very much about hope and dreams.
Hence, his primary aim would be to sustain the morale of party and coalition members and to ensure that their dream of power will not diminish.
A special video presentation on the Permatang Pauh by-election will be aired just before Anwar takes the rostrum and that, as some have pointed out, should speak volumes of just how far Anwar and PKR have come since their reformasi days or, more important, of their political potential in the next few years.
But lofty aspirations of power aside, the PKR congress will also have to deal with down-to-earth issues relating to the party’s internal politics and organisation.
It will also have to state its position on hot button issues like the economy, education, religion and culture.
PKR’s electoral success was unexpected and its leaders have been struggling with the weight of being in power, of running the state governments and, most challenging of all, grappling with the high expectations of those who voted them in.
Questions surrounding these issues will form the crux of the debates during the congress.
The congress for the Youth and Women wings start today with deputy president Dr Syed Husin Ali making his opening address. The main congress will take place over Saturday and Sunday.
Earlier on, there were signs that some disgruntled party members were planning to use the congress to air grievances about the performance of the Pakatan Rakyat state governments.
Several PKR Youth figures have openly criticised the administrative style of Selangor Mentri Besar Tan Sri Khalid Ibrahim in recent months, accusing him of sidelining party interest in the state and even of neglecting Malay issues.
At the same time, PKR is still adjusting to PAS’ Islamic agenda.
But PKR Youth chief Shamsul Iskandar said party delegates will dwell on constructive criticism rather than just finger-pointing.
Party leaders have taken pains to ensure that the debates will not be anything like what took place at the PAS Youth muktamar in Ipoh where delegates slammed Pakatan Rakyat partners and even rejected the idea of Anwar as the Prime Minister-in-waiting.
As the leading party in the coalition, it has to ensure that the coalition will hold together and perform well enough to face the next elections.
It has to carry the message that the coalition has a place for people of all creed and colour.
“Our future plans depend on the coalition staying together,” said Saifuddin.
Still, this is a party that has adopted the theme of a “New Dawn” and of promoting a new politics for Malaysia.
Its younger members reflect the new generation of Malaysians, hence, expect frank and critical views to surface, be it about party leaders or the workings of the coalition.
All said and done, PKR will have more to crow than to moan about when they convene this weekend.
The only fly in the ointment is that their man is still waiting to be the Prime Minister.