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Wednesday, January 29, 2014

MB: There may be a royal twist to the S'gor saga


EXCLUSIVE Some three hours after Abdul Khalid Ibrahim announced that PKR supremo Anwar Ibrahim will be contesting the Kajang state seat, observers were still scrambling to understand the ramifications of the latest development.

The announcement had come in the wake of intense speculation that Anwar was entering the state arena to unseat Khalid and assume the post of MB.

But as the turbulence whirled around PKR and the bombshell Khalid just dropped, the MB's office, however, was an oasis of calm.

By the time Malaysiakini was ushered into his plush office at the Selangor State Secretariat building in Shah Alam about 2.30pm yesterday, Khalid would have been in back-to-back meetings since 8am.

First at his home, to iron out last-minute details of the Kajang plan, then to the PKR headquarters to make the announcement, then straight to media interviews to explain the confounding turn of events.

Skipping lunch for another media interview, Khalid, the hater of hair combs and lover of strategic management, seems to have figured it all out.

"Today is..." he trails off as he typically does when his mouth presumably forgets to catch up with his thoughts.              

"I think I can see the difference between the corporate world and the political world. In the corporate world, I also experienced volatility.

"But in the political world, the volatility is very much faster than in the business world," he said when asked to describe the day.

Not a straightforward deal

The question on everyone's minds, however, is not whether the Selangor MB has learnt the pace of politics but whether he would still be MB if Anwar wins the Kajang by-election?

Having assessed the risk, he said the situation is "50-50".

"He (Anwar) can say 'I need you' or 'I don't need you'."

However, Khalid, was quick to point out that "it is not a straightforward deal, based on the history of Malaysian palace politics”.

The menteri besar has studied the Selangor constitution and by his assessment, the sultan has the prerogative to reject a candidate for the post of menteri besar, even if the candidate has the support of the state assembly.

"What does it mean? He (the sultan) can say, 'Can I have another person?' We look at the history of Perlis, Terengganu, Kedah and Pahang. It is common.

"(The sultan) may not accept the new candidate... And do you know that it may not just be one group (vying for the post)? There will be three other groups lobbying for the job," he said referring to coalition partners PAS and DAP.

"There is an element of uncertainty. It will be naïve to say that it is (a) done (deal) because palace politics has its own dynamics," he said.

Khalid's administration was previously painted as being at odds with the palace but observers now generally agree that he actually has a good working relationship with the sultan.

Understanding Anwar

Having conceded that he will not cling to power if he is eventually shown the door, will Khalid use this good ties with the palace to sabotage the party's chosen man?

"As far as that is concerned, if the party says 'Mr X'... As the delivery chap, I can deliver (the message to the palace). No issue."

For now, the speculated person who may take over his post is Anwar. This move, analysts say, is a way to quell pressure against Khalid from a rival faction in the party.

This is probably among the reasons the MB greatly respects the man who could take his job.

Anwar, he said, is "the most experienced political animal" and his ability to read situations and turn "awkward situations" into opportunities is unparalleled.

"I am trying to adapt, and I have to understand him (Anwar) or else I will not achieve my objectives. He, too, has to understand me. To bear with me. It's a mutual thing... It has its own complexities and it is not ordinary."

Khalid also said that in their anger against Anwar, the people did not consider the risks Anwar was taking in putting himself in a position that some see as beneath him.

"He is taking risks too because if he is not successful, this is after 20 years of hard work. Hey! It's (the risk) much more than other people!

"He is not going there with a red carpet laid out for him. You must appreciate that. The fact that he is willing to take the risk is also important."

Khalid said that after all the struggles, it is inconceivable that Anwar's "main aim in life at the end of the day is to end up in Selangor".

But it is difficult for us to see the way a political animal sees things.

"You look at Anwar in terms of his life experiences, we will not have imagined that. That is the difference... This is the reason you have to look at it from this perspective. I doubt you understand fully.

"Just like I was trying to understand (Nelson) Mandela. If I was jailed for 25 years in that cold thing (prison), the first time I have power, I will be looking for these people to let them experience it too," he said.

Three tigers on a mountain

Khalid said the people may be angry that the party is using a by-election to solve internal disputes but this is all part of political "evaluation and evolution".

"The people will have to understand that it will go back around, and they will be able to ask, 'Are you not doing what we want?' Then the (party) will have to change.

"No political party is so stable. Even the best of communists... Even in North Korea, the uncle is now gone! (Laughs). Where is stability?" said Khalid, referring to the execution of the uncle of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. 

"If the internal issue is (handled) for the better, then it is good for the people," he said.

Khalid said that while disputes are "not abnormal", what he hopes for is greater maturity and a "certain etiquette" in handling them.

"Actually, a successful business is only done with a handshake. It is not the 30 or hundreds of pages of agreement. The more we do business in that manner (with handshakes), the faster we do business. The same in politics," he said.

He admits that Anwar, himself and his rival and Selangor PKR chief Azmin Ali, have "not yet built that bond" but can "accept each others' differences".

There is a Chinese saying that there can never be two tigers on the same mountain. With Anwar in the mix, the mountain that is Selangor will have even more than two.

"Well, let's see. Let's see how it goes."

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