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PKR secretary-general Datuk Seri Saifuddin Nasution Ismail speaks during an interview with Malay Mail April 29, 2022. — Picture by Choo Choy May
PKR secretary-general Datuk Seri Saifuddin Nasution Ismail speaks during an interview with Malay Mail April 29, 2022. — Picture by Choo Choy May

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KUALA LUMPUR, May 5 — PKR secretary-general Datuk Seri Saifuddin Nasution Ismail said the party’s internal election must be held urgently as it lacked all the leaders needed to fully prepare for the 15th general election.

Addressing the criticism and negative feedback to the party in recent months, Saifuddin said PKR was now over-reliant on him and party president Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim as the remaining party officials to both run its day-to-day activities and lead it to victory.

In an interview with Malay Mail, Saifuddin said there was also concern of factions emerging within the party, with some aligned to Rafizi Ramli who recently re-entered politics, to Nurul Izzah Anwar, himself and Anwar.

“I had a frank chat with Anwar and he asked me what other posts I’m holding, I said I am the MP for Kulim Bharu, secretary for Pakatan Harapan (PH), I sit on the Special Committee for Pandemic Management, was previously on the Special Independent Emergency Committee advising the Agong, joint chairman along with Home Minister Datuk Hamzah Zainuddin on the memorandum of understanding for PH and I sit on the Special Select Committee on the anti-party hopping Bill.

“The party doesn’t have its deputy president and its four vice presidents but they (members) want us to prepare for GE15 and they want us to win, that’s going to be difficult the way it is now.

“That’s why I feel it is unfair to tell us not to have a party election now but at the same time you still want the party to be strong. We’ve lost all our leaders after the ‘Sheraton Move’,” said Saifuddin.

PKR lost Datuk Seri Azmin Ali and Datuk Zuraida Kamaruddin during the ‘Sheraton Move’ while Nurul Izzah also quit as PKR vice-president; Rafizi withdrew from active politics soon after PH won the 14th general election.

Last month, Rafizi announced his return to politics in a bid to “save” PKR following the party’s dismal showing in the last three state elections.

He and Saifuddin will compete for the vacant deputy presidency at the PKR annual congress in June; party insiders have said that there is a rift emerging with both leaders taking shots at each other in the press.

Rafizi said he previously made way for Saifuddin to be PKR secretary-general and is known as a fighter while Saifuddin is known as a negotiator.

Saifuddin, who rejected this description, said he was prepared to go to war for the party if needed, but preferred diplomacy when possible as he was a “team player”.

Despite the direct contest, Saifuddin insisted there was no hostility with Rafizi, who he said has been a friend and “brother” since the latter’s time as a student in England.

“Not only that, I have a good relationship with the top leaders from different political parties. I’m not sure if Rafizi can work with Azmin’s team,” he said, referring to Rafizi’s open hostility with Azmin during their previous contest for the deputy presidency.

“I, however, have moved on. Obviously I don’t agree with what they did but the party is broken into pieces and Azmin isn’t here anymore.

“Listening to Rafizi’s speech on referendum — whether to go ‘big tent’ or fight solo — this I felt was his way of telling the party members that I am more inclined to negotiate which means I’ll negotiate with the two most hated people in the party, Azmin Ali and Zuraida Kamaruddin.

“This however is not true. I am one who can move on and I want to leverage my skills and contribute to the party in any way I can by implementing ideas without worrying about a legacy,” he said.

During his 22 months in the Pakatan Harapan government, Saifuddin was the minister of domestic trade and consumer affairs.

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