Sunday, August 31, 2008


John Roberts

Anwar Ibrahim, leader of the opposition Malaysian Peoples Front (PKR), won a hotly contested by-election for the seat of Permatang Pauh on Tuesday with 67 percent of the vote. The scale of the win in the northern state of Penang will see Anwar back in the national parliament for the first time in a decade and intensify the opposition’s confrontation with the government of Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi.

Anwar has set September 16 as the date by which he would form a new government by enticing government MPs to his side. The United Malays National Organisation (UMNO), which is the major party in the ruling 14-party Barisan Nasional (BN), has held power for more than half a century. The PKR alliance won 82 of the 222 seats in the national parliament in elections in March and needs 30 MPs to switch camps to bring down the government.

Anwar was unable to run for a seat in March due to a ban stemming from his conviction on trumped-up charges in 1999. His wife Wan Azizah Wan Ismail resigned her seat to create the by-election. Despite a malicious campaign against him, Anwar won 31,195 votes to 15,524 for the BN candidate Arif Shah Omar Shah—an increase of 3 percentage points from his wife’s result in March.

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