By Kee Thuan Chye
8th March 2014
The buzz is all over town. And most probably outside of the country too. Opposition Leader Anwar Ibrahim has been found guilty by the Court of Appeal of sodomising Saiful Bukhari Azlan in 2008.
The High Court acquitted him of the charge in January 2012, but the Attorney-General appealed. Now it looks like Anwar’s luck has run out. The famous Sodomy 2 case has caught up with him this time.
The judge has sentenced him to five years’ imprisonment. Although Anwar’s lawyers have straight away filed notice of appeal to the Federal Court, his conviction should disqualify him from standing in the upcoming Kajang by-election, which had come about when the incumbent state assemblyman, Lee Chin Cheh, stepped down to actually pave the way for Anwar to contest – as part of the so-called Kajang Move engineered by PKR strategist Rafizi Ramli with the long-term view of possibly making Anwar menteri besar in order to prepare Selangor as the launchpad for Pakatan Rakyat to take Putrajaya.
What happens to that now?
Rafizi explained that Anwar was needed in the Selangor administration to save it from being surreptitiously ousted by BN, as what happened in Perak in 2008. He also said Anwar would be able to help make Selangor a model state and prove Pakatan worthy of taking over the federal government. With Anwar no longer able to play saviour and lead the charge for Putrajaya at least for now, will the outlook for Pakatan in Selangor be dim? What about its prospects for the next general election (GE14)?
More pressing – since nomination day is next Tuesday – who will replace Anwar as PKR’s candidate in the Kajang by-election? Who can the party field to ensure that it retains the seat?
The talk is, Rafizi could be the one. He is well-liked and highly intelligent. And he has been riding high since he helped blow the whistle on the National Feedlot Centre (NFC) scandal.
But perhaps an even more winnable candidate would be Nurul Izzah Anwar, MP for Lembah Pantai. She is winsome, also highly intelligent, and, like Rafizi, among the new breed of politicians who exude industriousness and sincerity. Above all, the fact that she is Anwar’s daughter will merely add grist to the mill.
Indeed, Anwar’s conviction will not be doing BN any favours even if it’s only too gleeful about locking him away; it will only make things worse for the coalition at the Kajang by-election. If PKR was hoping to win by a bigger majority, it looks pretty certain of getting it now. In fact, it will probably win by a landslide. Even the average Malaysian is saying that even if PKR were to field a nobody, it would still win hands down.
We have been through this before, we have seen how Anwar’s first sodomy conviction in 1999 affected voting patterns in the general election held later that year. The effects would be even more pronounced in a small by-election.
Imagine also what a powerhouse Anwar would be campaigning for the PKR candidate replacing him in Kajang. He was already being greeted like a rock star during his recent pre-campaign ceramahs; what will his status be when he does the rounds after nomination day?
Some people are even saying that BN’s candidate, Chew Mei Fun, might lose her deposit.
To be sure, when the campaigning starts, her coalition will bear the brunt of the public’s anger at the rising cost of living and the Government’s maladministration, and the poor woman will have to take much heat. Now she can count on the anger against Anwar’s conviction to raise the temperature even higher.
The fact of the matter is, Malaysians no longer believe that Anwar is guilty or care if he is truly so or not. His sodomy trials have come to be perceived as nothing but political stunts orchestrated by nefarious BN who are unable to take on Anwar fair and square and have therefore to resort to underhanded tactics.
Many have been sickened by these tactics, like my old friend who called me right after the court ruling came out and expressed his utter disgust. “This is what they wanted to do to him,” he said, “and they’ve done it.”
What will happen to Anwar in the longer term?
If he loses again at the Federal Court – which seems a likely scenario – he will have to go to jail and therefore lose his parliamentary seat of Permatang Pauh. His political career will be over.
Pakatan Rakyat will have to find a new Opposition Leader and regroup. If no leader arises among them to emulate Anwar’s ability in galvanising PKR, the DAP and PAS, Umno will make more intense overtures to PAS to get them to cross over for the sake of Malay and Muslim unity. If BN fails, its chances of survival at GE14 – assuming it will be fairly run – may be slim.
Anwar’s plight may still be a factor at GE14 – the flame of anger against his Sodomy 2 conviction may still burn strong – but, again, this is more likely to be so if the Pakatan pact holds together. Anwar, on his part, will try his best to drag out his Federal Court appeal as long as possible so that he will still be remembered during GE14. But with the law prohibiting a convicted person from being involved in politics until five years after the end of his sentence, he will not make prime minister if Pakatan wins Putrajaya. Unless perhaps he gets a pardon from the King. And even then …
So, the possibilities are … well, to borrow a catchline from an advertisement about Mongolia, almost endless. And this has come to pass because of the Court of Appeal’s ruling on Sodomy 2. It has made politics in Malaysia even more volatile and exciting, more dramatic than soap opera. In the coming days, more excitement is expected. Let’s see what can create even more buzz than today’s event.
* Kee Thuan Chye is the author of the new book The Elections Bullshit, now available in bookstores.