Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim is lost in space. He is drifting into the ether on his own, disconnected from the people he once thought loved him, estranged from the coalition machine he failed to unite, and sadly transfixed with GE13 – the election that got away.
Three months on from that election, he cuts a lonely figure as he shouts “It’s ridiculous! It’s not right” at the judges who have been striking out his court actions against the constituent results of GE13.
No other high profile Pakatan Rakyat figure is interested with his fanciful bid to overturn the result of GE13 via the courts. When he briefly flirted with boycotting Parliament, the 89 Opposition MPs on his own side of the Dewan Rakyat barely paused before they took their seats to debate legislation that is vital for Malaysia. On the other side of the house, it is business as usual, with the Government of Datuk Seri Najib Razak forging ahead with reform of our arcane tax system and the Election Commission.
Looking at where Anwar is now, wallowing in self-pity as he refuses to rule out even more disruptive ‘Black 505’ rallies, it is easy to brand May 5, 2013 as a pivotal date in his demise as a leader, let alone a future Prime Minister. But you really need to go further back to another even more important date to see where it really went wrong for Anwar.
That date was January 9, 2012, the date on which he was acquitted on the Sodomy II charges. That event is key because it was then that Anwar’s victim persona lost its allure. Previously, journalists had fawned on him, detailing his suffering in sympathetic prose. It gave Anwar the chance to brand his homeland an “oppressive regime” and speak of the need for a “Malaysian Spring”.
But in time, stripped of his protective shroud of victimhood, voters started to ask more probing questions about his character, his ability to pull together his disparate coalition, his lack of a manifesto or a shadow cabinet, his personal wealth and his past as a Finance Minister, and his role in Bersih 3.0. Suffice to say Anwar probably had a better time as leader of Pakatan Rakyat before January 9 than he has since.
And let’s look at the answers to some of those questions. His role as a unifying force of PKR-DAP-PAS was exposed more than anything by the hudud saga. While PAS and DA slogged it out, Anwar did all he could to remain invisible – after endorsing hudud and then announcing that PKR did not join with him. Brave, interventionist leadership was never his thing. No wonder the “Hadi for PM” sideshow was allowed to run its course.
The same problem made a common policy framework impossible and hence the incredible delay for a pre-election manifesto. We never did get a shadow cabinet.
And still haven’t.
There remain enough lurking questions about his personal fortune, personal conduct and time as Finance Minister to stop him being credible enough to ask tough questions of the Government’s conduct.
And Bersih 3.0 exposed him at his very worst – allegedly cajoling the masses over the barricades of a demonstration that turned violent. It was a day that left him with “questions to answer”.
Perhaps the most surprising decision by Anwar since GE13 was his declaration that he will stay on as de facto Opposition leader having previously promised to quit politics. This was a curious call, given his lacklustre performance since May 5. He looks like a man who simply doesn’t care for the future.
It all could have been so different. Anwar could have emerged from making gains at GE13 stronger and he could have created his shadow cabinet and strode into the Dewan Rakyat ready to take the fight to BN. But he didn’t. He couldn’t.
Perhaps another September crossover pledge is in the offing. Perhaps the old Anwar will return.
But likely not. Anwar remains lost in space and there is no sign that he won’t just keeping drifting off into the distance.