Verdict ends Anwar's dream of becoming PM

Verdict ends Anwar's dream of becoming PM

It was quite an emotional atmosphere in the courtroom when the guilty verdict finally came for Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim and, for a moment, he seemed unsure of how to react.

But the father and husband in him emerged over the politician when he saw the tears and emotions flow from his family members and it was he who ended up comforting them.

 

Everyone could see that Tun Arifin Zakaria was heading towards a guilty decision even before he finished reading the judgment and some politicians inside the courtroom had begun tweeting their misgivings.

Nevertheless, it still caused a jolt when Arifin finally pronounced Anwar guilty of sodomising his former aide Saiful Bukhari Azlan.

The trial has taken seven years and it has been a long and winding road for both men who, in their own respective ways, have been to hell and back.

Saiful was still young and handsome when this awful sodomy scandal exploded, resulting in him being widely vilified.

Today, he is 30, still handsome, happily married and the father of a one-year-old baby boy. He greeted news of the verdict by giving thanks to God and took comfort in the fact that the judges had described him as a "credible" witness.

Saiful, who has kept a low profile throughout, feels vindicated. A new journey in life is about to start for him and his little family.

But for Anwar, the journey ends here. His controversial political career will come to a close.

The five-year sentence means that Anwar will be barred from contesting in the next general election. By the time he is eligible again, he would be on the wrong end of 70.

His dream of becoming prime minister has also ended.

Pakatan Rakyat will now have to start looking for someone to replace Anwar or, as lawyer and former think-tank head Khaw Veon Szu puts it, "someone who can bring all three different animals together again".

Some think that with Anwar behind bars, Pakatan's dream of Putrajaya has also ended. It has been robbed of its prime minister candidate.

Just days before his date with destiny, Anwar managed to persuade the three parties to hold a Pakatan leadership meeting. It did not result in anything fruitful but it succeeded in showing that the coalition was still intact even if only in name.

Is there anyone who can replace Anwar in Pakatan? The answer is still blowing in the wind.

Anwar's career has been filled with controversy of the political sort to the personal type. His political and personal life have too often overlapped and spilled over into the national politics of the day.

But as Khaw pointed out, Anwar has been positive as well as negative for the politics of the day.

His critics and admirers will have contrasting opinions on his role in Malaysia's politics but there is no denying that he was the catalyst to the emergence of a two-party system.

After his release in 2005, he became the first plausible prime minister candidate the opposition had ever had and that boosted their performance in the 2008 and 2013 general elections.

"He hastened the process, he has been the agent of change," said Khaw.

According to Khaw, Anwar and PKR managed to attract a new generation of Malaysians who believe in multi-racial politics and who were inspired by his rhetoric and public advocacy. Many of them are Malays who would otherwise have gone to Umno.

These young Malays are PKR's gain and Umno's loss because many of them are moderate, well-educated and decent people. If Umno today seems more right-wing and ultra than a decade ago, it is because the more moderate Malays have gravitated to the other side.

But Anwar's credibility plunged after the Kajang Move fiasco.

"It was an eye-opener of what Anwar was capable of, especially for his diehard supporters," said Khaw.

The last straw was when he insisted on his wife as the Kajang by-election candidate. As if that was not enough, he tried to make his wife the Selangor Mentri Besar.

He went too far in testing the limits of what people could accept in politics. And his family dynasty in PKR is so embarrassingly old politics.

His roadshows, one in the run-up to the Federal Court hearing and the other prior to the judgment, have drawn lacklustre interest. Politics is very much about numbers and the crowd was missing at a time when he needed them most.

He probably saw the writing on the wall during the roadshow's grand finale in Petaling Jaya on Monday night.

There was no crazy traffic jam or feverish mood and there were barely 2,000 people scattered around the field. It was such a contrast to the post-general election rally in the same venue when the field was so packed you could only see the heads of people.

Anwar spoke for only about 30 minutes and the whole thing was over at about 11.30pm. He was probably tired after a long week. He had a big day ahead and what else was there left to say?

In the days to come, his supporters will lament and condemn the way it has ended for him while his opponents will say it serves him right.

But for many ordinary folk out there, they see a man with unique God-given skills but also with too many human flaws and who eventually fell on his own sword.

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