Zaid Ibrahim's short-lived love affair with PKR is a reminder to all of us of many things.
First and foremost, I do not think for a moment that PKR's "one member one vote" system was well thought out, in terms of planning, management and implementation. It was a good idea and I am sure it was laced with good intention. But we have seen that good intention alone does not make an act good. Take the New Economic Policy as a prime example. Need I say more?
It must have been thought that UMNO's delegation system was too feudal in its outlook. Then it would not have escaped PKR's top echelon - as Anwar Ibrahim himself was a hot shot in UMNO - that the UMNO's delegation system was and is still in fact a fertile ground for abuse and corruption, as well as an incontrovertible proof that UMNO's top-down leadership is almost as feudal as it comes, making a mockery of modern democracy anchored to the will of the vastness of the real people, as opposed to elected agents and delegates.
And so PKR had to be different. All members must have the power to choose their leaders. To that end, it was well intent. However, unfortunately, how that end was to be achieved was a different matter altogether.
From the riotous and almost farcical party election that PKR is now going through, I doubt whether the intended end is achieved. When records show about 80 people in attendance and yet about 800 people voting, surely PKR could expect dissent and resentment from the candidates vying for posts. That is only to be expected.
To top it up, when party outsiders such as Haris Ibrahim could produce ballot papers issued for the party elections, one wonders whether Roy Hodgson is in charge of the ballot papers in PKR. Additionally, the low turn out for the elections has put the whole election in a really bad spotlight.
Secondly, the power play which underlies the political dynamics which results in Zaid's departure from PKR leaves a really bad aftertaste to Malaysians who were, up till recently, pinning their hope for a strong PKR showing in the next general election. A lot have been said by Zaid, his supporters and detractors as well as his opponents and even Anwar Ibrahim himself.
To the Malaysian public, these dynamics are not relevant nor significant. The average Malaysian voters are not appraised of these things. There will be Malaysian voters who want change. And from these change-seeking voters, some may see PKR as an alternative. Some others may remain hopeful that PKR would be a viable alternative.
The obvious question is how would this fiasco affect their thinking and perception of PKR. Would they now still see PKR as a viable alternative? Would they remain hopeful as such? How about the new-aged voters, namely the current crop of young cyber/iPhone/iPod/iPad-era voters who, despite their affliction for Lady Gaga and Adam Lambert, are more politically aware then we even care to give them credit for?
What will they think about PKR now?
I don't know about how they feel and think. But frankly, in my perception, PKR is so full of crap then it would even dare to admit. And if the farce that PKR calls and labels as party elections is to be a yardstick of its ability to govern this country, I would rather vote for the Siberian Husky in front of my house. And by that, I don't mean to insult the dog.
Thirdly, all of us would begin to wonder what will happen to Zaid after this. He was disciplined by UMNO before. Despite that, he became a Minister. A de facto law Minister at that. His push for reform saw him resigning in protest. He then left UMNO.
His sojourn to PKR was, to me, an expedient course, rather than a diligent one. He thought he needed a platform to move on with his reformist agenda. It was thought that PKR welcome him with a open arms. Recent events showed that while the arms were wide open while welcoming him, the hands may have held a knife to his back during the traditional welcome hugs.
Zaid could have been PKR's trump card. Coming from the deep end of the "enemy's" territory, he must have possessed bountiful of knowledge about the "enemy" and their ways. He has always been steadfast in what he believes in and if needs be, he would not shy away from going against the mainstream.
He has proven this time and time again. When he was practising law, he was the first to have started and pursued the idea of a super-sized legal firm. In 1987-88, when the Malaysian Bar was up in arms over the Tun Salleh affair, Zaid bucked the trend. He in fact supported the proceedings against Tun Salleh. He then established the Malay Lawyers Association.
While a Minister, he pursued what he thought was a necessary agenda for the BN government. He did not even get approval from his colleagues. He left.
In PKR, barely some months after joining the aprty, he was issued a ban from traveling to Sabah and Sarawak. That was the first sign of trouble for him in PKR. But being true to himself, he soldiered on with his own reformist agenda within PKR.
He must have either overrated the party's willingness to change or underrated the strength of his detractors from within the party, or both. But what would hurt him the most would be the killer blow delivered against him by the party's leadership.
The arguments against him are numerous. Some say he was being impatient in challenging for the number two seat. But that would go against the very ideal which the party so fervently and loudly preach, namely, a true and dynamic democracy which gives the opportunity to every worthy man to lead, or challenge for a seat to lead. Does PKR practice what it preaches? Or does PKR think what it preaches only applies to others but not itself?
Some say he was selfish and almost obstinate in his pursuit of reformation within the party. However, if ordinary members are not given the opportunity to test the worthiness of his or her ideas within the party, what political dynamism are we talking about? If a party only wants to hear what it wishes to hear, what differentiates it from its opponents against whom it complains for being dictatorial on a daily basis?
This debacle, in all its high resolution glory, coming after PKR's self-induced loss in Batu Sapi and viewed from the spectre of the two state assemblymen on pogo stick in Perak, a kangaroo MP from Kulim, a frog from Bayan Baru as well as the legendary 16th September black comedy, makes one begin to wonder what the "K" in PKR stands for.