Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Malaysia's Anwar Ibrahim Resurrects Political Career With Striking Election Success

Accused of sodomy and convicted of corruption, Malaysia's charismatic Anwar Ibrahim was stuck in political limbo for nearly a decade. But he resurrected his career this week with spectacular electoral gains against the party he once was anointed to lead.

The former deputy prime minister worked tirelessly for more
than a year to meld the ideologically divided opposition into a coalition, which won an unprecedented 82 of Parliament's 222 seats and reduced the government to its lowest-ever majority in the chamber.

More importantly, the coalition won control of the governments in five of Malaysia's 13 states, a stunning result that even pro-government commentators described as a 'political tsunami'.

"People might say a lot of nasty things, but he managed to get (the opposition) together," Musa Hitam, another former deputy premier, said of Anwar. It was a coup for him."

The 60-year-old Anwar has been through a lot since his glory days in the 1990s when he was Malaysia's second-most powerful man, holding the posts of deputy prime minister and finance minister. Then Prime Minister Mahathir Mohammad had declared that Anwar would replace him eventually and take over the ruling National Front coalition.

But Anwar's fortunes soured when he began to criticize Mahathir over the government's fiscal policies. Mahathir fired him from the Cabinet in 1998, accusing him of corruption and sodomy. Sordid details of his alleged homosexual acts with his driver and adopted brother emerged at the trial.

Commentators wrote his political obituaries.
Anwar denied all accusations and said Mahathir framed him. But he was convicted of both charges and spent six years behind bars in a case that drew international criticism of Malaysia's political and legal systems.

Anwar's wife created the opposition People's Justice Party in 1999 to fight for his freedom.
Mahathir resigned in 2003 and Abdullah Ahmad Badawi took over as prime minister.

Anwar was freed in 2004 when a court overturned the sodomy conviction.
His corruption conviction legally barred him from politics for a five-year period, which expires in mid-April.

The ban kept him from contesting the March 8 elections but his wife, Wan Azizah Wan Ismail, is expected to vacate her parliamentary seat after April so Anwar can contest a by-election there. He is expected to win easily.

"I'm eager to be back in Parliament," Anwar said Tuesday.
"I'm thankful to Allah and feel that I am vindicated, not by the court of law ... but at least by Malaysians at large," he said. "I'm really, really touched by the support and affection."

He traveled abroad extensively after his release from jail. In recent months he focused on the election campaign against the National Front.
Anwar considered one of Malaysia's most charismatic speakers, second only to Mahathir, crisscrossed the country ahead of the elections and attracted crowds of thousands to his campaign speeches. He spoke of rising prices, racial tensions, rampant corruption and crime, striking a chord with ordinary Malaysians.

"Anwar's role in the campaign was very important," said Johns Hopkins University's Bridget Welsh, a Southeast Asia expert who was in Malaysia to monitor the polls. "He was a conduit for the opposition parties and the key player in bringing their message across nationally."

Anwar's party, known by its Malay acronym PKR, increased its tally in Parliament to 31 seats, up from the one held by his wife. The victors included Anwar's daughter Nurul Izzah, 27. Two PKR allies, the ethnic Chinese-based Democratic Action Party and the religious Pan-Malaysian Islamic Party or PAS, won 28 and 23 seats respectively.

Analysts say Malaysia's political landscape has changed so radically that the opposition coalition could even win the next elections, which would put Anwar in line for the prime minister's post.

He laughed and refused to reply when asked Tuesday whether he harbors prime ministerial ambitions. He would only say he was part of a 'government-in-waiting' that could win power in the next elections.

Mahathir, meanwhile, has continued to revile Anwar. He has accused his former protege of making false campaign promises by telling ethnic Chinese and Indian minorities that he would scrap affirmative action policies favoring the Malay majority.
'Anwar is a character who has shown in many ways that he has many faces. So a person who is not trusted by anyone would make a very bad prime minister," Mahathir said earlier this week.

The five years until the next elections will not be easy for Anwar. He has proved himself politically relevant again, but he has to ensure the long-splintered opposition can rule the states effectively and fulfill its pledges of overhauling racist and corrupt policies.

"These elections were fundamentally about reform," Welsh said. "Malaysians wanted a better system and Anwar was symbolic of that agenda. He is going to run for elections as soon as he can, and he is likely to be a major player in Parliament as the process moves forward." (

***** Dr Mahathir says that Anwar cannot be trusted, has 'many faces' and would be a bad PM. Do you agree?



Anonymous Malaysian said...

"Dr Mahathir says that Anwar cannot be trusted, has 'many faces' and would be a bad PM. Do you agree?

The Somali people have a saying: "You accuse others of what actually you are." Mahatir knows himself, so he thinks everyone is like him. That's why he has changed all his Deputy PMs and continues to blame everyone yet he is the disease of Malaysia the nation and the state.

3:52 PM GMT+8  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Mahathir is the root of all evil in Malaysia. He is the one who brought the downfall of UMNO, perpetuated the hatred and discrimination among the races and encouraged the rampant corruption of which he himself is part of. In other words, a hypocrite.

After 20 years of destructon that culminated in last Sunday's election results, with Badawi and other BN leaders being the scapegoat for all the policies and legacy of Mahathir's rule, I'd take Anwar anyday.

4:03 PM GMT+8  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The PAS state govt in Kedah ought to arrest that Mahamamak and deport him back to Tamilnadu

5:34 PM GMT+8  
Blogger kittykat46 said...

"Dr Mahathir says that Anwar cannot be trusted, has 'many faces' and would be a bad PM. Do you agree?"
Time will 4 years is a long time to watch how Anwar behaves. In the meantime, PKR, with Anwar's leadership, is now shown to be potentially an existential threat to BN's majority.

DAP and PAS never was because BN can alwas play with Malay and Chinese fears against each party, so they can only win in either heavily urban or heavily rural areas.

5:53 PM GMT+8  

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