28 February, 2008

Anwar's wife pledges to give her seat to husband if she wins

The wife of former Malaysian Deputy Prime Minister, Anwar Ibrahim, has revealed her future political plans, for the first time.

Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail is the President of the opposition Party Keadilan Rakyat.

She's contesting the seat of Permatang Pauh in Penang.

And she told Channel NewsAsia that if she retains that seat in the 8 March polls, she plans to vacate it and make way for her husband to take over.

However, she said that voters in the constituency will have to choose if they want her to carry on or let her husband make a comeback. But for now, retaining the seat is her top priority.

Dr Wan Azizah was thrust into the forefront of politics when husband, Anwar Ibrahim, was arrested in 1998.

She then took over from her husband as Member of Parliament in Permatang Pauh and in 1999, she won that seat.

Dr Wan Azizah continued to retain the seat in the 2004 election but analysts said she won because of sympathy votes.

The electorate was especially swayed by a poster which showed Anwar with a ‘black eye’, after he was punched while being detained.

Dr Wan Azizah said: "I am really grateful that they gave me the support not only in 1999, but continued through to 2004 and now I see that same amount of enthusiasm in support of me now that he is out.”

The Permatang Pauh contest is one which is being closely watched by party activists from both the Barisan Nasional (BN) and opposition parties.

In the 2004 elections, Dr Wan Azizah won by a mere 590 votes. This time round, big names from both the UMNO and opposition are heading to Permatang Pauh, to win the hearts and minds of voters over the next one week.

Dr Wan Azizah's Party Keadilan Rakyat has joined forces with other opposition parties, namely the Democratic Action Party and Parti Islam SeMalaysia, PAS.

They've formed a pact to put up a common fight against the ruling Barisan Nasional.

Malaysian leaders have called the strategy, a marriage convenience.

Dr Wan Azizah calls it, a move towards a better Malaysia.

She said: "Now, we see the system integrating, we have to have an alternative for the future of our country, for our younger generation, for our ‘anak chuchu’ as we call it in Malay. So we offer something, and if it is taken up, we build a better Malaysia.”

And the man to helm that hope is, her husband, who still cannot take part in this year's election because his term of expulsion ends only in April 2008.

So one option for Dr Wan Azizah is to quit her parliamentary post if she wins, and come April, force a by-election so that Anwar can contest and eventually, take over in Permatang Pauh.

She said: “I am telling the electorate, Anwar is your member of parliament, your representative and now there is a chance again for him to be again your representative but he (is) denied of his right.

“It is only a month away from him being able to contest and the government has taken the decision to prevent him and to stop him.

“So now I am giving an option. If you would like it, yes of course, but if you don’t, I will continue to be your representative."

Anwar has already been very much involved in campaigning to ensure that his wife retains the parliamentary seat first, before he gets the chance to take over.

-By S. Ramesh, Channel NewsAsia

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