Friday, September 12, 2008

Anwar to Miss Malaysia Takeover Deadline, Eroding Credibility

Anwar to Miss Malaysia Takeover Deadline, Eroding Credibility

By Angus Whitley

Sept. 12 (Bloomberg) -- Malaysian opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim delayed a plan to unseat the government, wounding his credibility after repeated promises he'd be in charge by next week.

Anwar's three-party People Alliance will miss a self-imposed deadline of Sept. 16 to take power, it said in a statement. He said as recently as Sept. 10 that a plan to attract enough government lawmakers to his opposition to win a parliamentary majority was on schedule.

Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi's ruling coalition this week sent a third of its lawmakers to Taiwan for what it called a study trip, making it harder for Anwar to orchestrate their defection. Still, the former deputy premier has said since May he has enough backers to oust the government, and failure to meet his timetable may cause him to lose support, some analysts said.

``People will be more cautious about his future statements regarding any attempts at crossing over to his party,'' said Mohamed Mustafa Ishak, professor of politics at Universiti Utara Malaysia. ``Things will be much more difficult. It's very important he has credible statements to support his argument.''

Anwar, 61, deputy leader from 1993 to 1998, will now have to balance efforts to woo government lawmakers with preparing for his trial on charges of having sex with a 23-year-old man.

A hearing will take place in a Kuala Lumpur court on Sept. 24 to determine whether the trial will be elevated to the High Court. Sex between men is illegal in Malaysia, and violators face a maximum prison sentence of 20 years. Anwar has pleaded not guilty to the charge.

Racial Preferences

Anwar's opposition pledges to end Malaysia's system of racial preferences that benefit the ethnic Malay majority. Some analysts said that his failure to win power on Sept. 16 won't stop him gathering support.

``Whether it not it happens on Sept. 16, the movement for change is unstoppable,'' said Khoo Kay Peng, an independent political consultant based outside Kuala Lumpur. ``We're definitely heading towards something. Continuous insistence on Malay supremacy will not work.''

Anwar's alliance, 30 seats short of a majority in the 222- member parliament, said in its statement it is still ``confident'' of attracting enough lawmakers to oust the government. It blamed the trip to Taiwan by the government's members of parliament for the delay.

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