Sunday, April 13, 2008

Anwar denies push for PM as political ban ends

Malaysian opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim celebrates his official return to the political stage tomorrow, when a ban from public office expires a decade after he was sacked as deputy prime minister.

The lifting of the ban marks the end of a saga that saw Mr Anwar convicted on sex and corruption charges and spend six years in jail, before storming back in last month's elections.

A reinvigorated opposition seized one-third of parliamentary seats and five states in the worst showing for the Barisan Nasional coalition, which has ruled for half a century.

Mr Anwar, 60, is once again being touted as a future prime minister, but this time for his Pakatan Rakyat opposition alliance. He had been expected to re-enter parliament quickly through a by-election in one of the seats held by his Keadilan party, and to challenge Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi in a symbolic no-confidence vote soon after. Although he is eligible to run for office from tomorrow, he said he was in no hurry.

"Certainly not in the next few months," he was quoted as saying in the The Star newspaper over the weekend. "Building up an effective, creditable Pakatan Rakyat is to my mind far more important for now."

Mr Anwar said the ban's expiry "has no significance in my mind" because he refused to recognise the decision of thecourt that convicted him of corruption.

But Keadilan will hold a rally tonight, with thousands of supporters of Mr Anwar's push for "Reformasi" (reform) expected to hear him speak.

"It will be a huge gathering of all our supporters, of what we call the Reformasi crowd, people who have been struggling for the past10 years," said Keadilan's information chief, Tian Chua.

Mr Abdullah has refused to stand down despite the electoral debacle, insisting he has a mandate to rule and promising to introduce reforms he promised years ago but was punished for failing to deliver.

But the opposition and many commentators predict the coalition led by Mr Abdullah's United Malays National Organisation will continue to flounder. - AFP

No comments: