Malaysian opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim on August 16 officially kicked off his bid to seize power by registering for a by-election to return to parliament. “I am touched by the support,” Anwar reportedly said as he arrived at the nomination centre in the Permatang Pauh constituency. “This is an overwhelming support.” About 30,000 supporters shouted Anwar’s battle cry of “Reformasi” or “Reform”, and waved party flags. “We want change. The future is Anwar. Long live Anwar!” they chanted.
Anwar, a former deputy premier, will run in the by-election on August 26 in the traditional opposition stronghold in northern Penang state. He is running against the ruling Barisan Nasional coalition’s Arif Shah, a 52-year-old political novice, and another independent candidate. Anwar, 61, hopes his election will be the first step towards ousting the ruling coalition which has led Malaysia since independence from Britain in 1957. The vote is seen as a test of Anwar’s popularity after a young male aide accused him of sodomy – the same charge that saw him jailed a decade ago. Anwar has said the sodomy allegations have been fabricated to prevent him from ousting the ruling coalition, after March elections that handed the opposition alliance a third of parliamentary seats.
International Trade Minister Muhyiddin Yassin described the by-election as “do-or-die” for Anwar. Anwar has cast the sodomy allegation as a government ploy to stop him from contesting the by-election. “They are afraid of me being an MP and going on to become the opposition leader in parliament,” he said at a rally on August 15.