GE-13: Last Chance for an Extraordinary Political Comeback for Anwar

May 1, 2013

GE-13: Last Chance for an Extraordinary Political Comeback for Anwar

by  Siva Sithraputhran, Reuters

Campaigner AnwarOn Sunday, Malaysia’s Anwar Ibrahim has his best – and seemingly last – chance to complete an extraordinary political comeback from beaten-down prisoner to leader of his country.

The 65-year-old former Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister told Reuters in an interview he will step down if his three-party alliance fails to wrest power for the first time from the ruling National Front (BN) coalition in Sunday’s election.

“I’ll have given my best and if the people are not ready for change, it’s better that you have a post-Anwar situation,” he said after a gruelling day of campaigning in Malacca, a BN stronghold.

Anwar is closer to power than at any time since his meteoric career came crashing down in 1998 when he fell out with the then prime minister Mahathir Mohamad, his mentor and Malaysia’s longest-serving leader.

His alliance surged to its best-ever election result in 2008, gaining support from ethnic Chinese and Indians disillusioned with race-based policies favouring majority Malays and discontent over a lack of political and economic reform.

The charismatic former rising star of the ruling United Malays National Organisation (UMNO) party said he was optimistic about going one better this time.

Pakatan Rakyat

“What is encouraging compared with 2008 is that we have built the momentum rather early this time. Normally, you don’t see a crowd like tonight until the end of the campaign trail,” Anwar said as he sat down at a roadside restaurant close to midnight after a long day of campaigning.

Late diners mobbed Anwar for pictures and hand shakes, a reminder of how he remains a popular figure after his tumultuous political career.

‘Premature power play that failed’

Anwar, who had long been tipped to succeed Mahathir, was dismissed in 1998 and charged with sodomy and corruption after he clashed with Mahathir over his handling of the Asian financial crisis that battered Malaysia.

Many saw the events as a premature power play that failed badly for Anwar, who critics say is still motivated by intense personal ambition. However, his arrest sparked street protests calling for “reformasi”, or reform, that still resonate today, especially for a younger generation eager for change.

Images at the time of the goateed, bespectacled Anwar appearing in court with a black eye and bruises sparked international outrage. Only a year earlier, Time magazine had put him on its cover, calling him “The Future of Asia”.

Anwar spent six years in solitary confinement and was forced to sit out Malaysia’s next two elections before returning to parliament in 2008 with a sweeping by-election victory.

Fresh allegations of sodomy then surfaced and many expected Anwar’s political career to end with a guilty verdict in court. Instead, he was given a new lease on political life when he was acquitted in January 2012 following a trial that gripped the Muslim-majority, multi-ethnic nation of 28 million people.

Anwar has always maintained the charges against him were politically-motivated, a view shared by international human rights groups and a majority of Malaysians in opinion polls.

Fallen heir

anwar ibrahim 39Anwar has promoted a rival vision for Malaysia that would abolish or scale back its most authoritarian laws and scrap a system of ethnic preferences for majority Malays.

A magnetic speaker who has cultivated a range of international allies, Anwar rails against the network of patronage that has grown up between UMNO and well-connected business people, fostering inefficiency and corruption.

His critics say he is far from clean himself, having long thrived within the very same establishment. “Malaysia must mature as a democracy. And we must be able to ensure that the (country’s) enormous wealth be well and prudently managed,” Anwar said.

Anwar was born in northern Penang island in 1947, the son of a hospital assistant who later became a Member of Parliament. He attended one of Malaysia’s top schools and made his name as a firebrand Islamic youth leader. He was jailed for 20 months in 1974 under a sweeping Internal Security Act (ISA) for leading anti-government demonstrations against poverty.

Mahathir invited him to join UMNO in 1982 to bridge a gap between theMahathir 2013 party’s ethnic Malay nationalist image and its rising Islamic aspirations.

Anwar held a string of senior cabinet posts, including the ministries of agriculture and education, and had been Finance Minister in 1998 when he was sacked.

After his first sodomy conviction was overturned in 2004, Anwar quickly returned to politics as the head of a revitalised, multi-ethnic opposition, centred around Islamists and secular social reformers.

The 2008 election put Anwar’s coalition tantalisingly close to a parliamentary majority, challenging the coalition which has controlled Malaysia since independence from Britain in 1957.

– Reuters

3 thoughts on “GE-13: Last Chance for an Extraordinary Political Comeback for Anwar

  1. Is this really the last chance for Anwar in his many attempts to be the PM of Malaysia? In all his previous attempts, he failed. If he fails again this time, he said he will retire from politics but some Malaysians do not trust him to stick to his words as excuses will be made later to keep him in politics.

  2. Dear AlieFalfa, just let DSAI be, if it’s ordained by Allah SWT that he shall be our PM, so be it, he has skeletons too, but between 55 years of BN’s rule and abuses, and 1 or 2 terms with PR, I’d take my chance with them anytime, ist term, to sort out those bastards that rape n pillage us and try to get back our stolen monies, 2nd term, they’d have to get their act together and fulfill all their promises, remember, if and when PR takes over, the amount of Debt to clear is mountain high, remember Obama, taking over Bush, who screwed up and had massive spending going uncheck, the same happened to the current British Govt, they had to pay back what Gordon Brown’s Labour spend abusively and before that Tony’s stupid policies and spending…..Oouch!!!

  3. Dear Lok1, please don’t get me wrong because, like you, I will be the strong supporter of any government for the time being. Polarised as we Malaysians are politically at the moment, I pray that the Almighty will allow the Malaysian “kiambang bertaut semula sejenak selepas bidok berlalu lepas” – I hope the GE13 results will be accepted by all and that all Malaysians, irrespective of their political belief, will come back together to work for the betterment of our beloved country under the chosen government.

    As for Anwar, I will let him be but I need to correct the perception that he believes this is his last chance politically. I suspect he will be more determined to fight his political battles till he gets his aim of becoming the PM than Mahathir is in remaining politically active till their dying days. Watch my words.

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