(Repeats item unchanged from Sunday)
By Jalil Hamid
KUALA LUMPUR Aug 25 Malaysia's Anwar Ibrahim
is expected to earn a seat in parliament at a by-election this
week, but it is far from clear that he can fulfil his dream of
throwing out the government and becoming prime minister
Even if Anwar overcomes what his party says is one of the
dirtiest and most racist election campaigns in years, analysts
say he could struggle to woo enough defectors to unseat the
ruling coalition that has ruled Malaysia since 1957.
Anwar has promised to bring widespread reforms, including
in judiciary and governance, and take urgent measures to boost
the economy and shield the ordinary people from rising prices.
"The election results will affect his momentum, whether he
can move forward or not," said Bridget Welsh, an expert on
Malaysian politics at Johns Hopkins University.
"It is pivotal he has to be in the parliament because it
will change the dynamics. A victory will be a step in the
Government leaders played down the prospects, saying that
there were no immediate signs that any of their 140 lawmakers
would jump ship to Anwar's Pakatan Rakyat alliance.
He needs a sizeable 30 defectors to unseat the ruling
Barisan Nasional coalition, a level many say a near impossible
despite cracks within the 14-party coalition following a March
Anwar has insisted that his goal of forming a new
government by Sept. 16 was still on track, unfazed by a sodomy
charge and a by-election onslaught.
"Anwar will win with a good majority," said political
analyst Yahya Ismail. "People want Anwar to be in parliament
and then become the prime minister."
Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi's coalition has waged
a concerted campaign, including alleged vote-buying and
launching personal attacks, to deny Anwar a win.
The uncertainty about the government's future has alarmed
some foreign investors, wary about a sudden shift in
government. The key share index has lost about 25 percent this
Abdullah has moved to allay some of the fears, saying that
his strong government would last until the next general
elections due by 2013. He himself has said he would quit in
"It does not matter to me whether he wins or loses. As far
as I am concerned, I have my government to look after...
Whatever the opposition members want to do, that is up to
them," he was quoted as saying by the New Sunday Times
The charge that Anwar had sex with a 23-year-old male aide
has dogged his campaign from the start.
"The interplay of politics and religion has never been more
in play than here in Permatang Pauh," columnist Joceline Tan
wrote in the Star newspaper on Sunday.
"It (the sodomy charge) has moved to centre stage now that
the campaign is moving to its grand finale."
On the eve of the official election campaign, Anwar's
sodomy accuser emerged from hiding to swear on the Koran in a
bid analysts say to undermine Anwar's credibility.
"This has some negative impact on Anwar," said Rita Sim,
deputy head of a think tank linked to a ruling party in
Barisan. Some fence-sitters, including staunch Muslims, may
have been swayed by the swearing, analysts said.
Pre-empting Anwar's promise to slash fuel prices if he wins
power, Abdullah on Friday announced a surprise cut in petrol
and diesel prices to help appease popular anger.
Adding to his dismay, the authorities hauled up several top
politicians in opposition-held Perak state last week for
Anwar has also been the target of a government smear
campaign, accusing him of being anti-Malay and a foreign agent.
Ethnic Malays form 70 percent of about 59,000 eligible voters
in Permatung Pauh.
(Editing by Faisal Aziz and David Fox)