Malaysia’s opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim is expected to win a seat in parliament in Tuesday’s crucial by-election, but it remains to be seen whether he can garner enough support to topple the government as he has vowed.
Most observers and analysts agree Malaysia’s opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim will win a parliament seat in Tuesday’s by-election, despite sodomy charges against him.
Anwar denies the sodomy charges, accusing the government of Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi of fabricating them to prevent his opposition alliance from toppling the government.
Polls in Malaysia show most people there believe the sodomy charges are politically motivated. Anwar, the former deputy prime minister, is running against Arif Shah Omar Shah of the ruling political coalition Barisan Nasional.
Political analyst Wong Chin Huat from Malaysia’s Monash University says the size of Anwar’s winning margin will determine if he has the ability to convince members of the largest political party, the United Malays National Organization, to defect to the opposition.
“The constituency consists of 69 percent Malay, 25 percent Chinese, and the remainder being Indian.
If you look at the Malay vote, if he manages to woo them, if he manages to pull 70 strong to 80 percent, many people in UMNO would jump because they would see that he controls the Malay support,” said Wong Chin Huat.
“If you jump sooner then you can hope to get a position in his new government, you jump later, he may not even pick you.”
Anwar needs 30 government lawmakers to switch sides in order to seize power.
Anwar is contesting a seat his wife, Wan Azizah Wan Ismail, vacated in June, forcing the government to hold a by-election.
In the March general elections, the opposition won a third of parliament, but the ruling Barisan Nasional hung on to power.
The opposition has accused the government of vote buying and stoking racial tensions in the 10-day by-election campaign.
Analyst Wong Chin Huat says UMNO has stoked racist sentiments during the campaign period, including comparing the ethnic Chinese to pigs, which are considered unclean by Muslim Malaysians.
“The UMNO machinery has been playing up ethnic sentiments to its height.
They openly compare Chinese as pigs,” added Wong Chin Huat.
“You never do that publicly, never put that in a campaign and this time around UMNO used that in a Malay area hoping that would push up the Malay support to create that sense that if you have Anwar winning, the Chinese and the Indians are going to dominate the country.”
Anwar has promised to bring widespread reforms to Malaysia, including within the government and the judiciary and to bring prices down and take measures to boost the economy.
Voice of America