Saturday, April 13, 2013

Khalid says will not defend Ijok, prompting talk he may relinquish MB post

Selangor Mentri Besar Khalid Ibrahim has announced that he will not be defending his state seat in Ijok, immediately setting off red-hot speculation about his position as chief minister of Malaysia's richest state.

Speaking at a health program in Ijok on Saturday, Khalid said PKR colleague Dr Idris Ahmad would contest the seat instead. Khalid also said there was a "possibility" he might stand at the Port Klang state seat.

Later, on Twitter, the 67-year-old Khalid said he had been offered the Port Klang seat but declined to confirm if he would accept until he had met with the grassroots there.

"The PKR leadership hopes that a heavyweight candidate can win the voters' confidence and I have been given the responsibility to contest there. I will meet with supporters in Port Klang tomorrow and if they support my standing there, I will work towards an even bigger victory for Pakatan Rakyat," said Khalid.

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However, PKR watchers were unsure if Khalid would really take on Port Klang as the former corporate leader might prefer a federal role if the Pakatan Rakyat opposition won the May 5 general elections.

"For sure if PR won the federal government, Khalid will be in the Cabinet rather than in the state government. He has enormous experience and expertise to contribute. It is the same for DAP secretary-general Lim Guan Eng, who is now the Penang Chief Minister. These are tough choices but they have to be made and hopefully for PR, they will get the opportunity to make such choices rather than not," a party veteran told Malaysia Chronicle.

Khalid was the losing Opposition candidate in the Ijok by-election in 2007. But he stormed back in the 2008 general election to win the seat from MIC's K Parthiban by a majority of 1,920 votes.

Port Klang was won by Badrul Hisham Abdullah on a PKR ticket in 2008 but Badrul controversially quit the party in 2009 and joined Umno in 2010. Badrul had polled 12,397 votes against BNl’s Roselinda Abdul Jamil's 7,990 votes and independent candidate Nazir Mansor's 580. Umno is unlikely to field Badrul in the coming ballot.

Since winning the Selangor state government in the 2008 election, Khalid's tenure as the head of Malaysia's most coveted state government has been focus of attacks from political arch rivals Umno.

Obviously, if Khalid's grip was weakened, it would be easier for the Umno-led BN to topple the Pakatan in Selangor and regain the state in the coming election. Pakatan currently holds 36 of the 56 seats in the Selangor state legislative assembly.

Adding to the speculation were recent comments from PKR president Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail. She had refused to confirm if the party would keep Khalid as the Selangor chief minister should PR retains Selangor.

“We have a few capable leaders, now as many as Barisan Nasional, so crowded, but Khalid is one of them because he has a track record, doesn’t matter as long as the right policies are there,” Wan Azizah told a press conference held at the party’s headquarters last week.

When pressed if that meant Khalid would likely be dropped, Azizah said the former could still be the mentri besar. “There is a probability that he will be MB but like I said there are other capable leaders,” she said.

Earlier this week, Opposition Leader Anwar Ibrahim, who is also the PKR adviser, announced that Khalid would defend the Bandar Tun Razak parliamentary seat. Anwar is due to announce PKR's list of candidates for Selangor at a ceramah (political rally) in Padang Awam AU 2, Keramat on Sunday night at between 8.30pm to 12 midnight.

Meanwhile, Idris, who heads the PKR's Federal Territories division, admitted that by taking on Ijok, there would be speculation he was slated to be the next chief minister.

"Yes, I am aware but it is speculation. Let's just win Ijok first, my job is to win Ijok for Keadilan. OK? The rest I leave to the wisdom of the party leadership. But I do wish to thank MB Khalid for giving me the opportunity to contest at Ijok," Idris told Malaysia Chronicle.

The 65-year-old medical specialist, who is still attached to the Pantai Hospital, admitted that Khalid was a hard act to follow. He declined to comment on whether Khalid would contest in Port Klang.

"I really do not want to speculate. It makes sense that PKR will want to retain Khalid by offering him the Port Klang seat. Whether Khalid will accept is his right."

Apart from Idris, PKR deputy president Azmin Ali is also in in line for the No. 1 post in the Selangor state government. However, should PR win the federal government, the talented and versatile Azmin is unlikely not to be rushed into the federal Cabinet like Khalid.

Idris also expressed confidence in being able to help PKR defend Ijok and the Selangor state government.

"Ijok is a hot seat. Umno has been after Selangor and Khalid is the MB. Of course, they will go all out to win back Ijok. I will do my best but at the end of the day, it is up to the people. My jentera (machiney) and party colleagues will not give up, we will go all out. As they say, no pain no gain," said Idris

Idris, an Australian graduate and a former student leader, joined PKR in 1998.

"1998 was the watershed year for me. I decided I need to make a difference. No, I was not a close friend of Anwar's although his jailing and black eye was a major factor which made me decide to join the Reformasi movement. I attended his Hari Raya functions when he was the deputy prime minister but I was not a groupie," said Idris.

"I was an Australian graduate and a very active student leader there. When I came home, Umno rushed to recruit me but from what I saw of Umno then, I just didn't want to join politics. I decided to focus on my career. Until 1998. Since then, I have been earning the ropes and doing what I can to help create programs to improve the system. Justice and the lack of it is a cornerstone issue for me."

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