15 August, 2008

Opposition coalition split over Anwar's power bid

Anwar Ibrahim's opposition coalition is showing signs of strain, ahead of Saturday's nomination for Permatang Pauh's by-election.

Members of Parti Islam Se Malaysia (PAS), at their annual assembly in Ipoh, appeared to be at odds over whether to throw their full support behind Anwar in the upcoming by-election in Permatang Pauh.

On Thursday, the party's more outspoken youth wing refused to endorse Anwar as the next prime minister if the opposition Pakatan Rakyat were to seize power.

During his keynote address, PAS president Abdul Hadi Awang told the party's 2,000 strong delegates that PAS - which was regarded as a "kingmaker" in the last election - will not allow itself to be taken for granted.

He said: "Let's not be reckless and allow ourselves to be sidelined. We can't allow ourselves to be submerged as if our role is only during election."

While the party president is non-committal on Anwar's bid to become the next prime minister, other party liberals expressed their full support for him.

The party's Secretary General Kamarudin Jaafar said the fate of PAS, Anwar's Parti Keadilan Rakyat and the Democratic Action Party (DAP) are intertwined, given that they jointly rule the states of Selangor and Perak.

"We will give our full support at the national level, as well as at the state and the Parliamentary constituency level to ensure that Anwar not only win, but hopefully wins with a much bigger majority than obtained by his wife Datin Seri Dr Wan Azizah," said the PAS secretary general.

PAS also reiterated that the party will never forge a political alliance with UMNO, despite the ongoing unity talks.

While a PAS-UMNO merger is unlikely, the ongoing talks has sparked a huge backlash among PAS grassroots and further destabilised the party.

This highlights the fragility of the opposition coalition where its component parties do not share a common political platform. PAS is fighting for an Islamic state while DAP is for Malaysia for all Malaysians.


Malaysia is a rare multiracial success. But its stability is being put to the test

A feverish atmosphere now grips Malaysia. The country is awash with rumours. Until the resignation in 2003 of the previous prime minister, Dr Mahathir Mohamad - after 22 years in office - its politics was entirely predictable. Now it is becoming highly unpredictable.

Malaysia is one of the great Asian success stories. It has enjoyed a growth rate of up to 8% for much of the past 20 years, and the fruits of prosperity are everywhere to be seen, from the magnificent twin towers in Kuala Lumpur to the expressways and traffic congestion. Without doubt Malaysia is the great economic star of the Muslim world. The architect of this economic transformation was Dr Mahathir, but since he stepped down the country has been engulfed by growing doubts about his legacy and the emergence of a new set of priorities.

The turning point was the general election last March. Ever since the country gained independence from Britain in 1957 it has been ruled by the Barisan Nasional, a coalition of three racially based parties led by the United Malays National Organisation (Umno), which has dominated Malaysian politics, leaving the opposition permanently enfeebled and embattled. In March, however, the government gained only 51% of the popular vote compared with 64% at the last election in 2004.....




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