If ugaiz have been paying attention to the news recently, you would have been seeing reports of a former UMNO Law Minister named Zaid Ibrahim joining the DAP. Zaid is now the newest member among other high profile Malays in the opposition party including A Samad Said, Dyana Sofya, and Syefura Othman.
“I see DAP as an effective government that can contribute towards solving our nation’s problems. In Penang, we have a state government that offers good administration, provides better housing and cleaner streets, and creates jobs for the people. That’s what good politics does – it solves people’s problems“. – Zaid Ibrahim, on why he chose to join the Democratic Action Party.
But did you know before joining the DAP, Zaid Ibrahim had actually been the founder of one of the most successful law firms in Malaysia, the UMNO Division Chief and MP for Kota Bharu, the law Minister under Pak Lah, the policy coordinator for Pakatan Rakyat under PKR, and even the President of his own political party?
Because he had been jumping around from being a lawyer, to being a politician, to being minister, to being an opposition politician, then being an independent politician pulak, and now back to the opposition, Zaid Ibrahim was once called a “frog” by Parti Pribumi Bersatu Chairman, Tun Dr Mahathir.
“He leapt into UMNO and even made it to become a minister. Then he jumped into the PKR and then to Sabah and when he was promised a candidacy, he jumped back here. This frog truly has strong hind legs, I tell you.” – Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, at an appearance in Hulu Selangor in 2010.
So why has Zaid Ibrahim been jumping around so much? Is he another Ibrahim Ali who has also been called a “frog” for jumping around too often? Or have there been reasons to why he joined and then left all the parties and positions he previously held? Here, we look at four times Zaid Ibrahim frogged his way around Malaysia’s political landscape and why he made the jump each time.
1. That time when he entered UMNO politics in Kota Bharu… and then got himself kicked out.
What happened: Before he was law minister under Pak Lah, Zaid Ibrahim was elected as the UMNO Division Chief for Kota Bharu in 2001 – a position he had tried for 10 years to get. According to his open letter to then Deputy PM Muhyiddin, Zaid was the unwanted choice to run for the Kota Bharu seat during the 2004 elections, as UMNO had actually wanted someone else to run for the position.
When Zaid won the seat in 2004, it was BN’s first time winning Kota Bharu in 15 years. But while he was serving as an MP from 2004 to 2008, UMNO’s disciplinary board actually charged and found Zaid guilty of money politics, only letting him off with a warning. Instead of just taking the warning, Zaid denied the charge and questioned the board’s authority, leading them to suspend him from the party for 18 months.
Why he left: To be fair, in this one he didn’t really leave his position. After the suspension, the party did not allow him to re-take his post as Kota Bharu Division Chief and also prevented him from running for re-election as MP.
“UMNO is the only party that I know and am associated with. It is always my hope that UMNO will change and I will stay in the party to see through these changes.” – interview with Malaysiakini in 2007.
But… his political career was just getting started because of…
2. That time when he became Pak Lah’s Law Minister… and then rage quitted from the position.
What happened: Although he had been suspended from the party and charged with corruption by UMNO’s disciplinary board, Zaid Ibrahim was offered a position in the Cabinet in 2008 as the country’s Law Minister despite his unpopularity within UMNO at the time. One of the first things Zaid Ibrahim did as Minister was to order the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission to launch an investigation… on himself! No evidence of his corruption as charged by UMNO was ever found and he was able to continue in his Cabinet position under Pak Lah.
As Law Minister, Zaid apologised to the judges who had kena fired by Mahathir in 1988 and compensated them for their sacking. The apology was praised by the Malaysian Bar Council and was also accepted by Tun Salleh Abbas, who was the main judge that had gotten the kick from Mahathir back in 1988.
Why he left: Before Zaid Ibrahim could do more in his position as Minister, he resigned from the Cabinet to protest the government’s arrest of MP Teresa Kok, blogger Raja Petra Kamarudin, and reporter Tan Hoon Cheng under the Internal Security Act.
“…a Minister must hold to principles, particularly if he is the minister responsible for legal affairs. A Minister’s job is to do the best for the people and the country. When Government action deviates from his principles, the minister must resign.” – from Zaid Ibrahim’s book, I, Too, Am Malay.
While there are some who call Zaid a quitter for not staying in his position as Law Minister, others say his resignation put pressure on the government to prevent them from carrying out more arrests. But as for Zaid himself, he still claims he is the only Minister to have ever resigned on principle.
As principled as he was though, trouble wasn’t over for him because of…
3. That time when he came out of the UMNO frying pan… into the PKR fire.
What happened: After the whole resignation saga, Zaid Ibrahim was reported attending PKR’s annual congress in Shah Alam which led to him getting sacked from UMNO pulak. But just six months later, he announced his membership with PKR in a move that was seen as a major boost to the opposition.
“[Zaid Ibrahim] is known for his bravery in defending human rights and the independence of the judiciary.” – Anwar Ibrahim, at the PKR press conference for Zaid Ibrahim’s party membership.
As the new hope for the opposition, Zaid was pushed to draw up Pakatan Rakyat‘s Common Policy Framework which was the political manifesto for PKR, DAP, and PAS altogether. But after Zaid Ibrahim completed it, there were some in PKR who were considering him to be the alternative leader to Anwar Ibrahim. Later reports then started saying that there was a fight brewing between him and Azmin Ali, Anwar’s political secretary and current Chief Minister of Selangor.
This led to a split in PKR with one side of the party supporting Azmin as deputy leader and the other side supporting Zaid. And with PKR’s elections taking place a year after Zaid joined the party, things were starting to get ugly.
Why he left: Zaid was accusing Anwar/Azmin of being the reason behind all of the party’s problems, acting almost like the Bernie Sanders to PKR’s choice of Azmin as Hillary. Eventually, Azmin won the election to become PKR’s deputy leader and Zaid decided that he was sick of all the drama in PKR. He announced his decision to quit the party only a year after he had joined.
“I knew my days in the party were numbered because the leaders were relentlessly making personal attacks against me. I am quitting because I want to dissociate myself from liars and cheats“. – Zaid Ibrahim, interview with The Star.
Not everything ended terribly though. A year later before Anwar was found not guilty of sodomy, Zaid apologised to Anwar over Twitter and wished him the best for his court date. Anwar then responded a few minutes later thanking him for the apology. Haih, if only fights between my parents ended this smoothly over Twitter.
But even after this, Zaid still wasn’t done with politics because of…
4. That time when he made his own party… and then quit. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
What happened: At this point, Zaid has been charged with corruption, suspended from an elected position, sacked by a political party, accused of being a traitor, and insulted by an opposition leader. You would think after all this, Zaid would be quite tired of having anything to do with politics.
The first thing he did once he left PKR was to start his own political party less than a month after quitting. Azmin, who was the newly elected deputy leader of PKR made sure to wish Zaid Ibrahim good luck with his new party, while also saying, “I am not sure if he can succeed or not”.
The new party that Zaid had taken over was actually a Kelantan-based Muslims-only offshoot from PAS named Angkatan Keadilan Insan Malaysia (AKIM). As President of AKIM, he changed the party into a national multi-racial party named Kesejahteraan Insan Tanah Air (KITA), and launched it a month after being elected.
In the beginning, Zaid’s plans for KITA was for it to be an independent party that would contest in the general election and work with other parties that had similar struggles to itself. Supporters of the new party included other former PKR members and Zaid was even open to cooperating with BN without fully joining them.
Why he left: It was pretty much a Frankenstein story. With some KITA members openly cari-ing pasal with the Pakatan Rakyat opposition, people were accusing Zaid Ibrahim of creating a monster he couldn’t control. Worried that his party was more interested in embarrassing the opposition than in creating policies of their own, Zaid Ibrahim announced his intention to dissolve KITA. After a quarrel with the party’s leaders on whether to dissolve or whether he should quit, he decided to leave the party and quit politics to return to the business world.
Well, the goodbye didn’t last forever because…
Now that he’s joined the DAP, will he jump again?
Between the time he left KITA and joined the DAP, Zaid Ibrahim was still active in the political scene. At various points he was considering running for election in Kajang in 2014, getting charged in court for criticizing Najib in 2015, and then claiming interest in running for the next elections in 2016.
Will he leave?
Since he joined the DAP, Mahathir has said he hopes Zaid stays around for longer than he has been in his previous posts. DAP leader Lim Kit Siang also mentioned that Zaid should be a team player rather than a prima donna, although saying he knows Zaid is a believer in honest politics. But less than a week into joining his new party, Zaid Ibrahim is already getting scolded for saying things that aren’t in line with the DAP.
Seven years ago, Raja Petra Kamarudin advised Zaid Ibrahim not to join the opposition as he thought that Zaid would be too vocal and too outspoken for them. He did suggest joining the DAP to help them counter perceptions that the party was anti-Malay. In fact, Zaid did say so himself that one of the reasons he joined the DAP now was so that he could convince other Malays to join the party too. If it seems like Raja Petra’s advice for him to not join PKR turned out to be correct, it follows that Zaid joining the DAP is also part of that advice.
In the meantime, while everyone else is wondering about Zaid Ibrahim’s future in the DAP, only time will be able to tell if he stays… or jumps.