By Terence Netto
COMMENT Opposition Leader Anwar Ibrahim has reiterated his intention to quit should Pakatan Rakyat not win the 13th general election.
A few weeks ago, he aired for the first time his intention to retreat to academia should Pakatan not win GE13. The other day, he again voiced his intention to quit if Pakatan fails to gain Putrajaya at the elections.
Implausible the first time he gave vent to it, the repetition of intention to quit, upon failure to oust BN, has not rendered it less so.
In fact, after the second instance of its airing, it is easier to visualise how this quit charade of Anwar’s would pan out.
Should Pakatan not win the general election, a wearied Anwar would follow through on his quit intention, probably offering the rationale that his withdrawal would provide second string leaders in his party, PKR, especially, a chance to step up to the plate.
Anwar would then go off to recharge his batteries at some fairly prestigious university where he would teach a course on Third World development strategies besides making a stab at writing his memoirs.
A few years down the road, the second stringers, after doing a fairly good job of manning the opposition fort, would clamour for Anwar’s return to the arena in preparation for the 14th general election on the grounds that the man is indispensable to the opposition’s cause.
In deference to the ‘people’s will’, Anwar would return to attempt another sortie for the top prize – that of being prime minister of Malaysia, something he has had his mind focused on from the time he was in his teens.
The 65-year-old Anwar’s reiteration that he would quit should Pakatan not win the next GE is a psychological ploy to jolt voters to back the coalition he leads to victory or risk losing him to academic life.
It is a spurious stratagem that Anwar should not want to deploy because it trivialises the reformasi agenda by unduly personalising it and renders the serious business of credibly supplanting Umno-BN at the helm of government dependent on individual volition and temperament rather than collective will and struggle.
No doubt, Anwar is bone-weary and mentally fatigued from the brutal demands of an intensive five-year campaign to unseat Umno-BN.
In the last six months, he has aged more rapidly than in the previous four years.
It was always going to be a Herculean task to weld an opposition coalition of ideologically disparate partners together and get them to wage a battle of attrition against Umno-BN.
In the process, he has had to weather relentless threats and attacks to his personal liberty and probity by the Umno apparatus of state power. Those attacks have not stopped; indeed they are intensifying.
That the Pakatan coalition is intact and that Anwar is still free and fighting are by themselves stupendous achievements.
Now, all that stands between Pakatan and Putrajaya are Malaysian society’s vast inertia and a general but definitely receding disinclination to want change as radical as the substitution of a 55-year-old government with a newfangled coalition that has shown in Kelantan, Penang, Selangor, and, if only briefly, in Perak, that it can compose itself frugally, rule benignly, allocate equitably and govern rationally.
Pakatan are just one crossed marking on a ballot paper away from owning residency rights to Putrajaya, given that the public’s inertia and distaste for radical change are now less deep seated than it was.
If Pakatan’s residency rights to Putrajaya aren’t conferred on them at the GE13, would it be difficult to envision that the electorate would not then have allowed Pakatan to run BN so close that the consequent fallout on a narrowly returned ruling coalition would be so fissiparous that it would disintegrate?
In these straits, it’s not hard to visualise a scenario where crossovers would occur from BN to Pakatan, not a good way to make a government but then nobody seriously disputes the pragmatic truth that political goals are only achievable upon the acquisition of power.
Hence Anwar’s repetition of his intention to quit should Pakatan not make it to Putrajaya after GE13 is a decision that smacks more of tactical maneuvering than it is a reflection of considered judgment.
Except for PAS spiritual leader Nik Aiz Nik Mat – who has publicly aired his demurral over it – nobody among the Pakatan leadership cohort has seen it fit to remark substantively on the announcement.
Perhaps they are adept at recognising a psychological ploy when they see one, particularly when deployed by one from their side of the political divide.
TERENCE NETTO has been a journalist for close on four decades. He likes the occupation because it puts him in contact with the eminent without being under the necessity to admire them. It is the ideal occupation for a temperament that finds power fascinating and its exercise abhorrent.