27 August, 2008

Parti Keadilan Rakyat did not win the by-election but BN lost the by-election

Malaysia’s opposition leader, Anwar Ibrahim, is set to be sworn in as a member of parliament tomorrow after a landslide by-election win marked his return to mainstream politics, reported Malaysiakini.

Anwar, a member of the Keadilan (Justice) party, won a decisive victory on Tuesday in a contest for Permatang Pauh, a constituency in his northern home state of Penang.

Pandikar Amin Mulia, the speaker of Malaysia’s lower house of parliament, said Anwar will be formally sworn in as legislator on Thursday.

This will allow Anwar, a former deputy prime minister and finance minister, to attend the tabling of the annual budget in parliament on Friday by Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, Malaysia’s prime minister.

His return to mainstream politics after a decade is expected to boost the opposition voice in parliament led by a loose coalition known as Pakatan Rakyat, or People’s Alliance.

Morale booster

“We will all be there to welcome Anwar as the leader of the opposition and the parliament will be very different with his voice,” Tian Chua, Keadilan’s information chief, told AFP on Wednesday.

“It is a real morale boost for the Pakatan Rakyat in parliament.”

Anwar’s landslide victory on Tuesday will not tip the balance of national power but he has vowed to topple the government and become the next prime minister with a promise for change.

He claims there are enough MPs from the ruling Barisan Nasional coalition who are wiling to join him to form a new government by mid-September.

He needs the support of 30 defectors to make this happen.

Last month Anwar’s wife, Wan Azizah Wan Ismail, who is also Keadilan president, resigned from the Permatang Pauh seat to make way for him to contest.

Sodomy charge

Anwar’s convincing win comes despite a new charge of sexual misconduct for allegedly sodomising a male aide early this year.

He says the charges are part of a politically-motivated smear campaign by the government.

Under Malaysian law, sodomy is illegal even if consensual, and a conviction could see Anwar jailed for up to 20 years.

Anwar is scheduled to appear in court on September 10 to deny charges of sexual misconduct, which he says is a government conspiracy similar to that mounted against him 10 years ago.

In 1998 Anwar was charged with sodomy and corruption which led to his sacking from government and political office.

He was later convicted on both charges and served six years in jail before the sodomy conviction was overturned in 2004. The conviction for corruption remains.

Anwar has maintained that Mahathir Mohamad, the former Malaysian prime minister who was his long-time mentor, had framed him in 1998 to prevent a power struggle.

Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, who has slammed his successor's policies after handing over power in 2003, said he believed many government supporters voted for Anwar so that Abdullah would realize his leadership is no longer wanted.

"Abdullah must take responsibility and resign now," Mahathir said.

Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad doubts that Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim could be the next prime minister despite winning the Permatang Pauh by-election on Tuesday.

The former prime minister believes that Anwar will not be able to get at least 30 Members of Parliament from Barisan Nasional to cross over to the opposition to form a simple-majority government.

"He (Anwar) may think that he can buy them but other bidders may have more money,"(Other bidders ?) he told reporters at Perdana Leadership Foundation here Wednesday.

"Parti Keadilan Rakyat did not win the by-election but BN lost the by-election," he said.

Dr Mahathir said he was afraid that the decreasing BN popularity within five months after the general election occurred not in Permatang Pauh only but was a trend in other constituencies as well.

He reiterated his call for his successor Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi to step down following this decline.

Meanwhile, dissidents in Malaysia's ruling party demanded the prime minister's resignation Wednesday after opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim returned to Parliament with a sweeping election victory.

Veteran government lawmaker Razaleigh Hamzah, who wants to challenge Abdullah for the leadership of the United Malays National Organization ruling party, said the results meant that "what scraps of credibility (Abdullah) had left after March 8 are gone."

Statement on the Result of the Permatang Pauh By-Election

26 August 26, 2008
YBM Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah
Member of Parliament, Gua Musang
31 Jalan Langgak Golf
55000 Kuala Lumpur

Today, five months after we met with the biggest General Election loss in our history, UMNO has suffered a landslide loss at Permatang Pauh. This despite the mobilization of the entire leadership and resources of a party that has held the machinery of government without pause for fifty years. This despite a campaign that embarrassed and divided the nation with its ugliness. It is time to face the music: it is we who have been buried:

- Our leadership is rejected by the rakyat and, moreover, is rejected by our own members. BN’s vote count was less than the number of UMNO members in the constituency.

- Within and among our component parties we ran a poorly coordinated and listless campaign against a motivated Opposition.

- What scraps of credibility the Prime Minister and his Deputy had left after March 8 are gone.

Today’s report card, delivered to a Prime Minister who is accountable also as Liaison Chief of UMNO Penang and Chairman of BN, is impossible to hide: he does not have the minimal credibility needed to run the country day by day, let alone to take it in the new directions we need to go in a complex world. He may not have the credibility needed to keep the country together. This dangerous situation cannot continue, and it will not.

I appeal to the members of UMNO and of BN’s component parties to stand by UMNO in our hour of crisis, and to take a sober historical perspective. The people of Malaysia and along with them, Umno’s ordinary members, have found their democratic voice. They demand leadership that can be trusted to unite our people, to restore confidence in our institutions, and forge a clear national direction. Today is proof that this wave cannot be held back. UMNO must change. We must begin by renewing our Party leadership. I am confident that by December, we shall.

Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah


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