Malaysian opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim said Monday he has enough support to topple the government and wants to meet with Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi to discuss a handover.
After landmark March elections that saw the opposition dramatically increase its seats in parliament, Anwar set a September 16 deadline to oust the Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition by persuading at least 30 lawmakers to defect.
“We have the numbers to defeat BN,” the opposition leader told a rally of some 10,000 supporters who erupted in wild cheers. “Tomorrow is D-Day, we are ready to form the government.”
“Our representatives have delivered a letter to Abdullah to demand a meeting … to discuss the future of politics in Malaysia and the handover of power,” he said.
“We have the numbers but we want to meet with Abdullah, show him the evidence and work out a handover because we want a peaceful transition”.
Anwar, a former deputy premier who was sacked and jailed a decade ago, arrived to rapturous applause at the rally held in a Kuala Lumpur stadium, which echoed to chants of “Reformasi” — the opposition battle cry of “Reform”.
Tian Chua, information chief of his Keadilan party, said the three-member opposition alliance had secured a simple majority in parliament and that more government lawmakers would defect later.
But he said there were concerns that the coalition — which has ruled since independence from Britain 51 years ago — would stoke conflict in order to justify a crackdown to keep itself in power.
“We want Abdullah to assure us there will be no repressive force used, like involving the police or inviting the military to take control,” he told AFP.
Tian Chua said the opposition’s push had been helped by the detention on Saturday of an opposition politician, a prominent blogger and a journalist under draconian internal security laws.
“Abdullah’s final crackdown made people lose hope that he is ever going to be a liberal reformer, which he promised,” he said.
Home Minister Syed Hamid Albar defended the detentions but said it was a police operation and not his idea — comments ridiculed by the opposition, which said he and Abdullah must be held accountable.
The Pakatan Rakyat opposition alliance made surprise gains in March general elections, seizing control of five states and a third of parliamentary seats in the biggest challenge ever faced by the coalition.
The political uncertainty has paralysed investment in recent months, and depressed trading on the stock market which dropped 2.5 percent over last week, and another 2.1 percent Monday as Anwar’s takeover deadline loomed.
Spirits were high at the stadium, which was adorned with Malaysian flags and posters demanding the release of the opposition politician and the blogger — who remain in custody while the journalist was freed.
“What Anwar has said will happen soon as all the people are backing him. The change of government will happen very soon now,” said Nursikin Bahrom, a 23-year-old student.
“Anwar has promised us a new beginning and we will support him when the battle begins on the 16th… he is our new prime minister and the BN should realise this,” said businessman Abdul Aziz Rashid, 36.
At the rally, Anwar set out an agenda to fight corruption and protect the rights of all citizens in this multicultural country which is dominated by Muslim Malays but also home to ethnic Chinese and Indian communities.
“The Pakatan Rakyat government will uphold justice, a free judiciary, a free media and a professional police force,” he said. AFP