Malaysia's Anwar Ibrahim Set To Win Parliament By-Election
Anwar is pitted against Arif Shah Omar Shah of the governing National Front coalition in Tuesday's by-election in this semi-rural district in the industrial heartland of Penang state.
"God willing we will perform well. We will manage against all odds, unless there is massive rigging. Any independent observer will concede we have an edge," Anwar, 61, told reporters Monday.
A former deputy prime minister with an eye for the top job, Anwar sees his imminent entry into Parliament as the next step in his effort to topple the government of Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi by mid-September.
If Anwar succeeds and becomes prime minister, it would be a stunning political comeback for the man who was ousted from the ruling coalition in 1998 and served six years in prison for sodomy and corruption. Anwar has always said those charges were political frame-ups.
Few expect Anwar to lose, despite being charged anew with sodomizing a male aide in June, said Ibrahim Suffian, director of the independent Merdeka Center, which conducted a telephone poll of 544 voters from Friday to Sunday.
Ibrahim said 57 percent of those polled believe that Anwar is "capable of bringing change that will benefit the people regardless of race."
In general elections in March, Anwar's three-party opposition alliance won an unprecedented 82 of Parliament's 222 seats — 30 short of a majority — as well as control of five states.
Among the seats won by the opposition was Permatang Pauh by Anwar's wife, Wan Azizah Wan Ismail.
Anwar could not contest the March elections because of a ban on holding political office stemming from a previous corruption conviction. It was slapped on him in 1998 when he was also charged and later convicted of sodomy. The sodomy conviction was overturned by the Supreme Court in 2004, and the political ban expired in April this year.
In June, Wan Azizah resigned her seat to allow Anwar to contest it.
But his campaign received an early setback when his former aide, Saiful Bukhari Azlan, swore on the Quran at a Kuala Lumpur mosque on Aug. 15 — a day before Anwar filed his candidacy papers for the election — that he was raped by Anwar.
Anwar said the ruling party "orchestrated the entire malicious, dirty campaign in time for this election."
The ruling coalition's campaign posters have also described Anwar as an Israeli agent who would allow American military bases in the country the minute he becomes prime minister.
The opposition has delivered a few punches under the belt too. Anwar has called ruling party leaders stupid, idiots, scoundrels and damned.
His party posters have shown images of slain Mongolian woman Altantuya Shaariibuu with the word "Justice" stamped on her forehead in red.
Shaariibuu, 28, was shot in October 2006 and blown up with explosives in a jungle. Abdul Razak Baginda, a close friend of Deputy Prime Minister Najib Razak, is on trial for abetting the murder. Najib also has been linked to the woman with allegations that he had an affair with her.
Najib denies this vehemently, and recently took an oath in a mosque that he never knew the woman. (International Herald Tribune)
***** Many see an Anwar win as the first step to improved inter-ethnic and inter-religious relations and harmony. For far too long has Umno practised a divide and rule strategy which has deeply polarized the country. We need Umno as badly as the Americans need George Bush. 'Nuff said.