Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Azmin Ali: MB Selangor with no honeymoon period

Now that Azmin Ali is the MB of Selangor, he will be under the microscope from his enemies within the Party, DAP, PAS, BN and finally the rakyat. One should not forget that the Sultan of Selangor would be monitoring him closely as well. After all, he is appointed by the Sultan and his appointment is perceived by many to be extra constitutional.

It is only by performance as a MB that will vindicate him from these accusations. Azmin’s worst enemy will be his own party members. The unprecedented long period of party election has only served to aggravate infighting among the members of PKR. How Azmin reaches out to his enemy within the Party and whether or not he takes care of his own supporters will in a way influence his performance as a MB.

DAP and PAS are not going to give Azmin an easy ride, especially after he reduces the PAS EXCO from 4 to 3. If he gives in too much to DAP, Azmin will be perceived as pandering to the Chinese based party. How Azmin manages his relationship with the Palace will be crucial. The Palace’s support will be his trump card but if he over display the Palace card, it will work to his disadvantage in the long term.

Having work in the state as an EXCO in Johor, one cannot deny that the State Government’s relationship with the palace is crucial if you want to get things done. Although the Sultan is regarded as a Constitutional Head, but often his influence is palpable, especially in running the daily affairs of the state. Any MB who wish to ignore this would have to accept the consequences at his own peril.

Honeymoon is not with Azmin when he has to contend with a lot of state and federal issues that need to be resolved. Time may not be on his side. The six highway crisscrossing Selangor and the issue of the water consolidation within the state are elephant in his room. If he is not firm and at the same time not inclusive towards his own state assemblyman from PR, and the interest of Selangor rakyat, he will be seen to be a lackey of UMNO and BN.

For the water issue, time to resolve is of essence in view of water shortage in Selangor. So there is little room to maneuver, more so that his predecessor has signed a series of agreement with the federal government. For the toll highway crisscrossing the state, Azmin can play for time by holding public hearing in the name of being mesra rakyat. He can always insists on a detailed study of the socioeconomic impact of the highway in Selangor and play for time. After all, acquisition of land is a state matter.

The Bible issue will be a sensitive issue that Azmin needs to address. Since religion comes under the state with the Sultan as the head of Islamic religion, Azmin has to walk a tight rope to balance the state religious authority under the Sultan and taking care of the religious sensitivities of the minorities.

After PR has won big in the 505 election in Selangor, the rakyat has high hope that the PR will implement its state election manifesto. This includes no toll highway, affordable housing and water consolidation. While Khalid has undertaken steps or initiatives to consolidate the water issues, no toll highway and affordable housing seems to be a far-fetched dream to Selangor rakyat.

The plate is full for Azmin. As the richest state, Azmin must maintain the momentum of development to ensure rapid economic growth and adequate state revenue. Much has been written about Khalid’s RM3 billion in reserve. It is unwarranted praise because what Khalid did was to increase revenue collection from land conversion and development charges. This is not difficult because of the property boom. It would be a challenge now that it is anticipated that there is going to be a property slow down.

A perusal of the state budget shows that the development budget for this year is lesser than last year. However, management expenditure has gone up by 20%. Azmin needs to revisit the unwarranted 400% increased of salary of state representatives. It’s unthinkable for the State Speaker to be paid a salary of a Cabinet Minister.  In the state, the speaker of the Dewan is the most leisurely job as PR has more than 2/3 ADUN. How his colleague in Pakatan Rakyat will react when their salary are brought down to earth having enjoy sky-high salary for the last few month?

Khalid was criticized as aloof and do not reach out to his colleagues in the State Assembly. Hence, a lot of PR ADUN claimed they are unaware of the development within the state. Azmin needs to strike a balance of disclosing what the wakil rakyat need to know and at the same time ensuring confidentiality of the state information.

At the hike of the Selangor MB crisis, I predicted a month ago that Azmin will finally be the Menteri Besar. Now that he is the anointed successor, Azmin has to answer the call of duty by the Sultan, Rakyat of Selangor, Anwar, Wan Azizah, PKR and PR’s partner. He must prove that he is the boss in Selangor to Anwar and his cronies. With resources at his disposal, he needs to stamp his mark that he will ultimately succeed Anwar and not a puppet MB. His distractor will continue to poke holes in his administration.

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