No one would ever accuse Zaid Ibrahim of being the perfect politician. The man is an idealist, not a sliver-tongued manipulator. We saw this in his forays into the shadowy world of maintream politics, first as de facto law minister and then as a troubleshooting member of PKR. Both attempts to find meaning in the giant mess that is politics ended less than satisfactorily.
He has since found a voice as Malaysia’s conscience. That voice is often the first to reach some sort of transcendent opinion on the various conflicts and controversies particular to our dysfunctional democracy.
Over the past year, Zaid has also become Mahathir Mohamad’s most significant booster, presenting himself as mediator for the grievances the opposition and its supporters may have against the former prime minister and his new party while maintaining the common sense voice of Malaysia’s favourite uncle.
And now he has challenged the honesty and accountability of our public institutions with a tweet following a High Court decision to set aside his application for a judicial review of the Attorney-General’s decision not to prosecute the Prime Minister. “Looks like if you are a crooked prime minister,” he wrote, “all you have to do is appoint a crooked AG, and the court will not interfere.” With that, he put himself in the crosshairs of the police, who are now investigating him for sedition.
While Zaid did come close to directly spitting in the face of the authorities many times in the past, this tweet represents his most aggressive move to date. Are we seeing a shift in roles from an opposition advisor to an opposition leader?
There is one surefire way to earn legitimacy in the opposition movement, and that is to run afoul of the institutions suspected to be crooked, and Zaid is well on his way to that legitimacy even if the police eventually let him off.
However this plays out, Zaid has won the long-term gambit. His reputation can only grow, and his word will be more accepted as the frank and honest opinion of middle Malaysia.
The question is, how will he maintain this momentum? There is no doubt Zaid would handily win any opposition-leaning seat should he contest, and there are still seats yet to fill given that cooperation between PAS and Pakatan Harapan remains merely theoretical. With Rafizi Ramli due to be stripped of his elected position and exiled to jail for 18 months, the opposition needs someone who can fill a similar role, and Zaid is more than a good fit.
But which party would Zaid represent? The most logical would be Amanah, DAP or perhaps even PPBM. Zaid’s last run with PKR wasn’t exactly the stuff that dreams are made of, and the duelling between the two factions of the party is unlikely to entice him back.
Still, there’s a police investigation to get out of the way before Zaid plays his next card and plenty of time to set up his return to active politics. -FMT