Friday, August 1, 2008

Malaysia's Anwar set to launch his election campaign

Malaysia's Anwar set to launch his election campaign

by M. Jegathesan

1 Aug, 2008

KUALA LUMPUR (AFP) - Malaysian opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim was set to launch his election campaign this weekend, despite the looming threat of arrest on sodomy allegations he has insisted are a political smear.

Anwar, a former deputy premier jailed on sodomy charges a decade ago, got the chance to run for parliament in a special by-election when his wife announced Thursday she was giving up her seat in northern Penang state.

"We will start the campaign programme this weekend. Anwar is heading to Penang to launch it," Tian Chua, his Keadilan party's information chief, told AFP on Friday.

Anwar has said he decided to contest his hometown seat as he seeks to return to parliament after a 10-year absence, adding that leaders of the other two parties in the opposition alliance supported him.

"Nothing is going to stop Anwar's return to politics unless the ruling government cheats with the use of phantom voters and vote-buying," Tian said.

Kamaruzaman Mohamad Noor, election commission secretary, told AFP that the body will meet next Wednesday to fix the nomination and election date.

Tian said Keadilan expected the election to be held on the third week of August ahead of national day celebrations on August 31 and before the Muslim holy month of Ramadan in early September.

Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi said Friday that the government will not prevent Anwar from seeking the seat, but authorities will investigate the sodomy allegations against him.

"No one will stop him from contesting," Abdullah was quoted as saying by Bernama news agency.

Anwar's decision to contest the by-election came after his party said he could face imminent arrest on charges that he sodomised a 23-year-old aide, allegations he has denied and said are politically motivated.

He was jailed 10 years ago for the same sex charges before they were overturned, and was also imprisoned for corruption.

Anwar has called his latest accuser, Mohamad Saiful Bukhari Azlan, an "outright liar" who was working with others in power to frame him and block his plans to topple the government.

But Abdullah told Bernama the aide "wants to seek justice in a court of law. We cannot ignore him ... Everyone has the right to seek justice."

The Keadilan's Tian said Anwar's by-election bid could come to a crashing halt next week if police arrest him on the latest sodomy charges.

"I think they may act against him. But we hope the authorities will act in a fair and just manner and do not arrest him," Tian said.

Deputy Prime Minister Najib Razak admitted Anwar remained a formidable political foe and acknowledged the seat was in an area where the opposition leader is hugely popular.

"We have to be realistic. It will be tough. We will do our best," he said. "We accept his decision. We will face him."

Anwar has said he will form a new government with the help of defecting lawmakers from the powerful ruling Barisan Nasional coalition.

A return to parliament would be another step in the political rehabilitation of Anwar, who was sacked as deputy premier in 1998 and later jailed on the sodomy and corruption charges.

Anwar was considered the heir apparent to then prime minister Mahathir Mohamad when he was fired.

No comments: