Put voters first, Bersih tells MPs offering seats to Anwar

Anwar Ibrahim has said he is in no rush to be prime minister and his priority is to be an MP first.

PETALING JAYA: Electoral group Bersih 2.0 says politicians should put the voters as their priority before deciding whether to give up their positions as MPs.

Acting chairman Shahrul Amaan Mohd Shaari said that whatever decision was made by the party and its leaders, there would be repercussions since it involved voters.

“We do not want it to be a ‘habit’ for MPs or assemblymen to relinquish their seats as a ‘sacrifice’ to the party,” he told FMT.

Shahrul was responding to statements by several PKR MPs who said they were willing to make way for de facto leader Anwar Ibrahim.

Anwar won the PKR presidency post unopposed over the weekend. He said today that he was in no rush to be prime minister as his priority was to be MP first.

Sungai Petani MP Johari Abdul and Selayang MP William Leong had said they were willing to “vacate” their seats so that Anwar could stand in the by-election.

Leong also claimed that there were many others among the 51 PKR MPs who were willing to give up their parliamentary seats for Anwar.

However, PKR Wanita Chief Zuraida Kamaruddin dismissed Leong’s claim, saying not all MPs were willing to step down to make way for Anwar, who will officially take over as the new PKR president later this year.

C4 executive director Cynthia Gabriel criticised PKR leaders’ intention to vacate their seats.

“Gosh… No one should give up their seats, please. You owe a duty to your voters. Wait it out till an opportunity arises. Win a new seat and add value to your party,” she said on Twitter.

Shahrul also said having by-elections at this time would be costly to the people and political parties.

“And the results may not be what the parties want, like the Kajang Move,” he said.

The Kajang Move in 2014 was a political manoeuvre to topple then-Selangor menteri besar Khalid Ibrahim and replace him with Anwar. It failed because Anwar was disqualified as an election candidate after he was convicted of sodomy and sentenced to five years’ jail.

Anwar’s wife Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail stood for election in Kajang in Anwar’s place and was nominated to replace Khalid, who refused to budge and was sacked from the party, causing a constitutional crisis that lasted for months. It was eventually resolved when the Sultan of Selangor appointed PKR deputy president Mohamed Azmin Ali to take over.

Meanwhile, former Sungai Benut MP Tawfik Ismail from Umno also disagreed with parliamentarians who wanted to give up their seats for Anwar. He said the move was “morally” wrong.

“There’s no principle to justify giving (up) a seat. If it’s vacant, anyone can contest.

“This is not something ‘personal’ you can give away like your books or pen,” he said, adding that elected representatives had worked hard to win and retain seats.

Tawfik said he and former Kangar MP Radzi Sheikh Ahmad did not vacate their seats when Umno was declared illegal. Instead, they maintained their positions as MPs.

Activist Thomas Fann from pro-reform group Engage said the voters had the final say on PKR’s decision to pave the way for Anwar to be the eighth prime minister.

“If they feel this is unacceptable, their views will be reflected in the polls,” he said.