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Thursday, March 4, 2021

Who Is PKR’s De Facto Head After Anwar?


The Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) polls this May is gaining momentum with the race for the party’s top position seeing an unprecedented husband and wife ‘battle’.

Incumbent Datuk Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail will be challenged by her husband Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim, who is also PKR’s de facto head.

Many political analysts feel the husband-wife contest for the party’s top position is no more than a ploy to stop others from going for the party’s top post.


Dr Wan Azizah was reported to have said that her decision to contest in PKR election ‘was for the sake of the party’s future’.

Many political observers were of the opinion that the Anwar-Dr Wan Azizah contest ‘guarantees’ that the party leadership stays within the family in the event Anwar is stopped from contesting due to his conviction and 5-year jail sentence handed over by the Appeals Court on March 7.

The former private secretary to the opposition whip and the Permatang Pauh Parliament member, Anuar Shaari described the husband-wife clash for the party’s top post is ‘mind boggling’.

“Never in the country’s political history, a husband and wife went for the same post,” he said.


It is a well known fact that the de facto head position is not stipulated in the party’s constitution and the highest position in the party is the president who runs the party.

Yet the de facto head position was introduced and Anwar appointed to the post in 2008 without any election. Anwar is widely seen playing an influential role through this position especially in holding together the loose Pakatan Rakyat (PR) alliance made up of PKR, DAP and PAS.

The question remains, who is capable enough to replace Anwar as the de facto head if Anwar is elected as the party president? Will the position be abolished?

Social Science and Humanities lecturer at Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM) Associate Prof Datuk Dr Samsul Adabi Mamat said he was confident that Dr Wan Azizah would retain the party presidency.

“It seems that Anwar is the head of both the PKR and also Pakatan Rakyat… if someone else is to be appointed as the adviser, I don’t see who could that be,” he said.

Samsul Adabi also noted that looking at the current scenario, it is difficult to predict whether the de facto head position would be maintained in the event Anwar is elected as the PKR president.

Dr Wan Azizah, among the founders of PKR, has been holding the president’s post since 1999.


Should Anwar become the party president, then there is this question on what will be the role of Dr Wan Azizah who has been with the party for the last 15 years and have contributed immensely for PKR?

Will Dr Wan Azizah remain without any position in the party or will she take over as the de facto head of PKR? Is she capable enough like her husband to take on the role?

A Social Science Studies lecturer from Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM) Prof Dr Ahmad Atory Hussain felt that in the event Anwar became the president, there was a good possibility that Dr Wan Azizah would become the de facto head.

This scenario could not be ruled out as Dr Wan Azizah could be awarded the position as a token of appreciation.

“Definitely Dr Wan Azizah could carry out the responsibility as the de facto head on Anwar’s behest. Anwar still has a good chance to take the president’s post as his appeal with the Federal Court is still pending.

“Whether Anwar becomes the president or not, PKR will remain under his influence,” he said.

Anuar concurred with Ahmad Atory that it would not be proper for Dr Wan Azizah to stay as an ordinary member when Anwar heads PKR.


Anwar is also definitely aware that when he leads the party and his appeal fails, his party’s registration will be nullified.

Many see that Anwar will take the opportunity to put the blame on Registrar of Societies (ROS), by making it look like ROS was the one all out to stop him from leading the party knowing well that he does not qualify to lead PKR as he has been convicted.

Anuar described that it is typical of Anwar’s strategy in evoking sympathy.

Samsul Adabi opined that Anwar is trying to distract the people’s attention from the core issue, that he is not qualified to lead the party as stipulated in Section 9A (1)(b) of the Societies Act 1966.

“No matter what Anwar will keep blaming the government for his fate,” he said.

No matter Anwar or Dr Wan Azizah wins, PKR’s leadership status quo will remain, its all within the family.

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