PETALING JAYA, Nov 12 — PKR president Datuk Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail is not keen to run in the next general election, saying she would rather spend time campaigning for all Pakatan Rakyat (PR) candidates than focus on her own contest.
The former two-term MP for Permatang Pauh is barred from contesting in a federal seat for five years under the law after resigning in August 2008 to pave the way for her husband, Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim’s return to Parliament.
But she still qualifies to contest in a state seat and could stand either in Penang, where she is registered to vote, or in Selangor, where she now resides.
“I want to be free to campaign all over,” Dr Wan Azizah told The Malaysian Insider in a recent exclusive interview.
“If I were to contest, I’d be quite limited to my area,” she added, saying that if elected, she would want to be as committed as possible to live up to voters expectations, and that would require her to keep in close contact with constituents in just one area as opposed to a larger base on a national level.
Dr Wan Azizah has been the face of the multiracial party’s reform agenda since its founding in 1999 when her husband was toppled from his lofty position as deputy prime minister and took on the mantle of opposition leader.
She stood in his stead at the family stronghold of Permatang Pauh in Penang in the 1999 elections and defended it successfully in the two subsequent polls before choosing to relinquish the parliamentary seat.
Selangor PKR has also offered her a choice of four “safe” state seats — Kota Anggerik, Seri Muda, Seri Setia and Sementa.
Since quitting as the Parliamentary opposition leader — a post she held for five months — Dr Wan Azizah has taken a back seat in politics, appearing more of a political party figurehead that is trotted out in public only when the occasion demands it.
She issues statements as party president usually during the festive season or at party conferences and intermittently on issues that stir public outrage, such as the perceived spike in crime rates nationwide.
Unlike her male counterparts in a muscle-heavy field, Dr Wan Azizah does not have qualms playing second fiddle in the political game.
In fact she appears to relish the supporting cast role.
“I have always seen myself as [in] a suppporting role. I’m still a torch bearer in that sense.
“I think I’m still that face they recognise as Keadilan’s,” said the grandmother who will be turning 60 next month.
But she acknowledges that the choice to contest or not is no longer in her hands if her party and the Pakatan Rakyat (PR) opposition pact is to make real headway in its bid to wrest control of Putrajaya from the Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition.
“I have contested in elections before. It is not something you can take for granted.”
The 13th general elections — which must be called by next April when the BN’s mandate expires — is the most keenly-contested in the race for federal power, Dr Wan Azizah said.
She observed that voters had grown more discerning in the last four years and the opposition could no longer count on voter dissatisfaction with the ruling BN to swing support towards PR.
“Now, we want to know more about who our representative is going to be.
“Malaysians are quite ready for change and we have to offer them that,” she said.