An­war re­turns to front­line pol­i­tics in big election win

Kuwait Times - - Front Page -

PORT DICKSON, Malaysia: An­war Ibrahim won an over­whelm­ing man­date in a par­lia­men­tary by-election yes­ter­day, set­ting the stage for his re­turn to front­line Malaysian pol­i­tics and seal­ing the once-jailed op­po­si­tion fig­ure’s re­mark­able res­ur­rec­tion. Win­ning the seat was a key re­quire­ment for An­war to suc­ceed 93-year-old Prime Min­is­ter Ma­hathir Mo­hamad, who jailed his for­mer pro­tege and heir ap­par­ent on sodomy and cor­rup­tion charges in 1998 when their re­la­tion­ship soured. Ma­hathir re­turned to the premier­ship this year af­ter a shock election win, say­ing he would stay in power for only two years be­fore hand­ing the reins to An­war.

Fig­ures from the Election Com­mis­sion showed An­war got more than 71 per­cent of the to­tal votes cast in a seven-way con­test - which in­cluded a for­mer aide who lodged the sodomy charges that landed An­war in prison for a sec­ond time in 2014. “I am happy with the re­sults. Al­lah bless us all,” An­war, 71, said af­ter the vic­tory, which marks the charis­matic politi­cian’s stun­ning po­lit­i­cal come­back from prison to par­lia­ment. An­war was in prison when he forged an un­likely al­liance with Ma­hathir in a bid to un­seat then-prime min­is­ter Na­jib Razak, who had called elec­tions for May amid mas­sive cor­rup­tion al­le­ga­tions. An­war said late yes­ter­day he told Ma­hathir about the win and the prime min­is­ter was “pleased with the re­sult”.

‘In­flu­en­tial leader’

“In par­lia­ment, I will fo­cus on as­sist­ing our MPs to em­bark on car­ry­ing out ef­fec­tive re­forms,” he de­clared. But James Chin, a Malaysia spe­cial­ist at the Univer­sity of Tas­ma­nia, said he ex­pects An­war to be ap­pointed to the cabi­net soon. “A per­son like An­war can­not be a back­bencher for long. He has to be in the cabi­net,” Chin told AFP. “I can guar­an­tee you that peo­ple will now be call­ing this govern­ment the Ma­hathir-An­war ad­min­is­tra­tion, a throw­back to the 1980s.”

Un­der­scor­ing the drama of yes­ter­day’s vote, one of An­war’s six chal­lengers was Sai­ful Bukhari Azlan, the ex-aide who had ac­cused him of sodomy, still il­le­gal in the largely Mus­lim coun­try. Sai­ful got only 82 votes. Polls opened un­der cloudy skies at 8am (0000 GMT) and closed nine and a half hours later in the sleepy south­ern coastal town of Port Dickson, home to a size­able eth­nic Chi­nese com­mu­nity that has tra­di­tion­ally been one of An­war’s pil­lars of sup­port.

“We are vot­ing for the next pre­mier. We need an in­flu­en­tial leader to bring long-over­due progress to Port Dickson,” said 60-year-old voter Lee Tian Hock. “This morn­ing, I prayed to Al­lah for a big win for An­war,” re­tired truck driver Mat Taib, a mem­ber of the coun­try’s eth­nic Malay ma­jor­ity, told AFP. “I want him to be our eighth prime min­is­ter.” As An­war hugged his wife and par­ty­mates, dozens of sup­port­ers erupted into shouts of “Re­for­masi” - his bat­tle cry while in op­po­si­tion - af­ter he was de­clared win­ner.

Charis­matic politi­cian

There had been lit­tle doubt the charis­matic politi­cian would win the seat, which was va­cated af­ter a mem­ber of the rul­ing coali­tion stepped down to pave the way for An­war’s re­turn. But he cam­paigned hard to se­cure the multi-racial con­stituency, promis­ing vot­ers de­vel­op­ment, clean govern­ment and a boost to lo­cal tourism. An­war did not dis­cuss the sodomy ac­cu­sa­tions on the cam­paign trail. He has al­ways main­tained the charges were trumped up to de­rail his po­lit­i­cal ca­reer. But he has cam­paigned doggedly on the multi-bil­lion-dol­lar graft scan­dal at state fund 1MDB, which led to dozens of cor­rup­tion charges against for­mer leader Na­jib and his wife Ros­mah Man­sor.

Both face the prospect of spend­ing the rest of their lives in jail in a scan­dal that saw Na­jib’s coali­tion lose of­fice for the first time since the coun­try de­clared in­de­pen­dence from Bri­tain in 1957. Po­lit­i­cal heavy­weights in­clud­ing Ma­hathir have cam­paigned for An­war dur­ing a come­back that was un­think­able even six months ago. The duo went on­stage to­gether at one cam­paign event, prompt­ing wild cheers from sup­port­ers. Af­ter he was dumped as fi­nance min­is­ter and jailed in the 1990s, An­war led a re­formist op­po­si­tion move­ment while fight­ing to over­turn his con­vic­tions. Ma­hathir, his men­tor turned tor­men­tor and now ally, came back from re­tire­ment to lead the Al­liance of Hope coali­tion that won power in May. — AFP

— AFP

PORT DICKSON, Malaysia: Malaysia’s Peo­ple’s Jus­tice Party pres­i­dent and leader of the Pakatan Hara­pan coali­tion An­war Ibrahim cel­e­brates af­ter win­ning in a by-election yes­ter­day.

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