Battle for the Political Middle Ground Begins, say Analysts

January 9, 2012

Battle for the Political Middle  Ground Begins, say Analysts

By Debra Chong, Clara Chooi and Shannon Teoh

Malaysia’s political middle ground is now up for grabs following Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim’s acquittal on a sodomy charge that divided voters and was a major distraction for both Barisan Nasional (BN) and the opposition Pakatan Rakyat (PR).

Political analysts told The Malaysian Insider today that with the end of the sodomy trial, the two political rivals could now focus their attention on the economy and reforms needed to ensure Malaysia remains competitive.

“The next election will now be fought on policy issues, on alternatives of how the country can be further governed and developed, and on quality instead of sensational issues.

“The positive outcome of the case evens out the playing field,” Ibrahim Suffian from the Merdeka Center told The Malaysian Insider.

Ibrahim and other analysts believe that today’s verdict gives Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak a chance to reclaim the middle ground of Malaysian politics, after major inroads were made by PR parties in Election 2008.

Earlier today, Information Minister Datuk Seri Rais Yatim made the case for the government that today’s verdict not only showed the courts were free from manipulation but was also an extension of Najib’s reforms push.

Rais had said in a statement issued immediately after the sodomy verdict that “the current wave of bold democratic reforms introduced by Prime Minister Najib Razak will help extend this transparency to all areas of Malaysian life.”

Ibrahim appeared to agree with Rais’s point, pointing out that “for Najib it allows him to continue speaking as a reformer.”

“He (Najib) has not interfered in the court process and the judiciary was independent in this case,” he said.

The High Court today acquitted Anwar of a charge of sodomising his former male aide Mohd Saiful Bukhari Azlan.

Judge Mohd Zabidin Mohd Diah ruled that the prosecution had not done enough to prove Anwar had committed sodomy against Saiful.

“It’s a significant moment,” Bridget Welsh, a professor at Singapore Management University and a long-term observer of Malaysian politics who was on hand to attend the verdict, was quoted as saying by the Wall Street Journal. “It shows that Mr Najib is willing to step away from interfering in the judiciary.”

Political analyst Khoo Kay Peng said with this morning’s verdict, Najib now has the opportunity to burnish his reform credentials.“There are still issues like corruption… which are bigger themes (than Anwar’s sodomy trial),” he told The Malaysian Insider.

Anwar, 64, had been similarly indicted of sodomy over a decade ago and was found guilty. He spent six years in jail before being exonerated.

The High Court’s decision this time, ahead of the 13th general election, will likely give a boost to Anwar’s PR pact’s plans to take over Putrajaya. Anwar has maintained that his prosecution for sodomy was politically-motivated and a plot to kill his political career.

Today’s verdict defied the expectations of political observers and even Anwar, who had alleged that a guilty verdict was predetermined.But it appears to have provided Anwar and his coalition a fillip, with the former deputy prime minister declaring immediately after the verdict that his main focus now would be to topple the BN government.

Shortly after the ruling, Anwar said on his Twitter feed that “in the coming election, (the) voice of the people will be heard and this corrupt government will be toppled from its pedestals of power.”

Ibrahim said that for Anwar, today’s verdict vindicates him and could go a long way towards addressing the doubts of voters, particularly those in the Malay-Muslim community.

“For a period of time Anwar was in some sense wounded because he was stuck with this case. With this lifted it might turn things around and help him increase his appeal towards a wider range of Malay-Muslim voters,” he said.

Universiti Malaya law lecturer Azmi Sharom said he did not see a clear winner arising from today’s verdict.“BN was in a lose-lose situation anyway, and Pakatan did not have its martyr,” he said.

8 thoughts on “Battle for the Political Middle Ground Begins, say Analysts

  1. The PM deserves no credit for this verdict. How could he when he screwed up big time! (pardon the pun). Credit goes to conscientious Malaysians whose collective voices continues to reverberate even up to this moment forever reminding the powers that be the peril of a wrong move.

    Whether he has or hasn’t interfered in the court process I’m not privy to it. Perhaps Ibrahim Suffian knows better. Rais Yatim can stop crowing that the justice system has not been tampered with. He only need to refer to his PhD thesis unless that moniker means permanent head damage that now requires him to change mode depending who he is interacting with.

    Let this episode be a lesson to all Malaysians. We cannot afford to be polarized by someone else’s behind for another 2 years.
    Ibrahim Suffian is not a sage or the oracle of Malaysian politics; he is just a pollster. The new Chief Justice is not like Tun Zaki who is an UMNO man and I don’t think he can be intimidated by Najib. So some credit must go to him and even to Judge Zabidin. In fact, this decision saved UMNO-BN from total collapse and problems on the streets (a Malaysian Spring).

    But to say that the decision to acquit Anwar of the charge of sodomy is a sign of judicial independence is not totally correct. Of course, it can be regarded as a start of change in the judiciary which must be sustained with comprehensive reforms. Maybe the Mahathir jinx over our institutions including the Courts is finally broken.–Din Merican

  2. “So some credit must go to him and even to Judge Zabidin” — Dato

    Are you kiddin’ me?? This man should be charged with the criminal attempt to pervert the course of justice. He was acting out the role of advocate rather than an umpire from the get-go.

    Did he experience an epiphany twelve days after Christmas for him to change his mind? But he is not Christian. So what changed? A change of heart? He fell casualty to his own conscience for what is conscience if not God’s presence in Man. I ‘d say none of the above.

    Word got to him that he was free to make his decision based on the law and the facts as he found them? Who spread the word? The Chief Justice made his 3.00 am phone call the morning he was to announce the verdict which was set to be “Guilty as charged”? Why is there a need for the CJ to make that call in the first place?

  3. Excuse me, who says Pakatan got no Martyrs?
    PR still has a martyr in TBH, whom the Justice Bao devotees in Chinapek-land won’t forget so easily. The Malays have T. Pengarah Sarbani, formerly free-falling ex-customs man; and the Indians have Kugan, the death in custody and thoroughly misdiagnosed post-mortem specimen. See it’s about racial profiling again.

    Sometimes Professors of Law, don’t know dip-shit about Retributional Psychology. Same with their woozy ideas about the efficacy of the “Scape-Goat” phenomena. Anwar outside is definitely more dangerous than a caged Anwar. Predatory to all those slimy snakes and geriatric rats.

  4. According to members of the legal community who had been following this case handled by Judge Zabidin, the way Zabidin handled the case, he is a KANGKUNG JUDGE. He broke all procedures.

    He had ruled that Saiful was a credible witness, before calling for the defence. That means what Saiful said was true and any rebuttal from the defence is untrue. Whatever Anwar says against Saiful’s testimony is useless in court.

    It also means that as far as the judge is concerned, Saiful was telling the truth that Anwar sodomised him.

    Why call for the defence to rebut when you are ruled that Saiful is a credible witness? You have already convicted Anwar way back then.

    The judge pre-empted the testimony of the defence and yet called for the defence to rebut the prosecution case. How silly can a judge be.

    And now he acquits Anwar on the issue of DNA… that he was NOT 100% certain the DNA was not compromised. But then he already said Saiful is a credible witness.

    A competent judge would have said there is prima facie case rather than to say that Saiful was a credible witness.

    Only a kangkung judge would rule this case for the prosecution by declaring the credibiliity of the prosecution witness and then acquit (correctly) based on evidence.

    Even thhe Bar Council that the way Zabidin handled this case is UNPRECEDENTED… as though he does not know how to apply the due process of the law.

    I agree with Mr Bean, this judge should be charged for incompetency.

    Even if he had found Anwar guilty, the Court of Appeal would have to overturn the guilty-verdict due to miscarriage of justice during the trial by the sitting judge.

  5. Listen guys,just as I have commented earlier,I am very sure Najib is gonna paint another picture,not to us Internet savvy,but to the kampong folks,the next step he takes,I’m sure is to have MACC charge Sharizat for Cowgate,then as Rais the rapist says”See the Govt doesn’t influence the Judiciary or MACC”,lets see whatelse Najib is up too,remember the percentage of votes from the Kampong Folks,he is addressing them now, what the opposition should concentrate on are the folks without access to the net n the guys in the hinterland(Sabah & Sarawak),I’d rather see more opposition’s money n manpower concentrate there then here in towns n cities,cover all our bases,n stop monkeying around,stop the stupid infighting within the PR’s parties,forgive n forget your petty squabbles n fight the real battle to win the War and the Grand prize shall be Putrajaya.

  6. The trial judge by his rulings denied the accused of a fair trial. He refused to admit exculpatory evidence and admitted into evidence that which is more prejudicial than probative. His misuse of his discretion amounts to abuse of process.

    His peers on the Bench should string him up by his balls for flushing whatever is left of their reputation down the toilet.

  7. MR Bean, I volunteer to buy the strings, if someone willing to do the hanging.

    I am even willing to buy a kwali and oil for frying..

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