The fight for leadership of PKR’s youth wing has narrowed down to two street fighter-style politicians versus a brilliant scholar.
PKR’s fiery orator Badrul Hisham Shaharin, more famously known as Chegu Bard, had been on cruise mode to become the next leader of the party’s Angkatan Muda Keadilan (AMK) wing.
But that was until a few days ago when the incumbent Shamsul Iskandar Mohd Akin, who had told everyone he was contesting the vice-president’s (VP) post, did a flip-flop and decided that he was going to defend his AMK chief’s post after all.
Shamsul’s detractors are now calling him “Mr U-Turn” while his supporters claim that it was Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim who asked him to reconsider defending his AMK post.
But not many are buying the I-am-Anwar’s-man story.
Shamsul, a lawyer, had secured the second highest number of nominations for the VP post but got cold feet after seeing that he would be contending against some very big names in the party, people who are YBs and who have delivered.
Shamsul, most people think, probably figured that he would have a less challenging time back in the AMK.
According to the party headquarters, only three people have qualified for the AMK chief’s post – Chegu Bard secured the most nominations, followed by Shamsul and Rafizi Ramli.
The AMK race is turning out to be as eventful as that for the other bigger posts.
Apart from Shamsul’s flip-flop, the other surprise has been Rafizi’s struggle to secure the nominations.
Rafizi, the CEO in the Selangor economic adviser’s office, was widely known as calon wahyu or Anwar’s chosen one.
But despite being Anwar’s preferred candidate, he has found himself the underdog. Everyone has been talking about how being endorsed by Anwar these days does not seem to have the magic of previous years.
Rafizi is a brilliant scholar and had studied and worked in the UK before returning home. He is serious-minded and a stark contrast to the populist styles of Chegu Bard and Shamsul.
He is the only candidate with a line-up known as the Generasi Reformasi.
“He has been active since the Reformasi days and is now emerging to play a more public and political role. He wants to take the movement to another level, to diversify its focus from NGO issues to real issues that affect young people, such as jobs, cost of living and affordable housing,” said Pantai Jerejak assemblyman Sim Tze Tzin, a member of Rafizi’s team.
Chegu Bard, on the other hand, is known for his fearless personality. His blog is filled with pictures of him at demonstrations, burning effigies and protesting against one thing or another. One of his role models is Che Guevara.
He caused a stir several years ago when he tried to deliver a pillow to the former Prime Minister Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi in Putrajaya.
“It does not matter that I don’t have Anwar’s blessing. Many people who were carrying his name are not doing well,” said Chegu Bard.
Shamsul’s supporters are claiming he is back in the race because Anwar does not favour Chegu Bard even though he is married to Anwar’s niece. They claimed Chegu Bard is too “independent” for the party adviser’s liking and that Anwar wants a wing with more substance.
But Shamsul will have to defend his track record. His dilemma is that PKR’s top leaders are not impressed with him but the ground is not averse to him.
He has been AMK chief for two terms but during the recent round of division meetings, only 82 out of 205 divisions managed to convene their AMK meetings. That means that less than half of the total number of divisions have an active AMK structure.
Moreover, as of yesterday, the nominations from only 44 divisions were deemed valid by the party’s headquarters. The rest did not meet the deadline or had technical problems.
It shows how badly organised the AMK structure is at the division level and reflects poorly on Shamsul’s leadership.
Shamsul’s U-turn to the AMK contest has given a boost to his former running mate and incumbent deputy chief Khairul Anuar.
Khairul, a municipal councillor, received the most nominations against Chang Lih Kang and Amirudin Shari, both of whom are assemblymen.
The lackadaisical showing at the AMK meetings the last one month means it is going to be tough for the AMK to go on boasting that it has thousands and thousands of members and that the Youth movement is a force to be reckoned with.
But where are all these members? How come there are not even enough members to hold a meeting? It seems like the wing just has leaders who are good at making noise and talking at ceramahs but there is very little substance on the ground.
Those who have been with PKR since 1998 said the wing today is a pale shadow of what it used to be. Whoever takes over will not have an easy job.