MALAYSIA’S opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim has renewed his vow to seize power from the ruling coalition, as the two sides lock horns for a key by-election.

Mr Anwar has laid low since failing to meet a self-imposed September 2008 deadline to unseat the Barisan Nasional government, after general elections that saw the coalition handed its worst results in half a century.

The opposition alliance is now hoping to reinvigorate itself with a win in the Jan 17 by-election in north-eastern Terengganu state, which is seen as a referendum on the political mood since the March 2008 national polls.

‘I want to say that we in the alliance are determined to topple the Barisan Nasional coalition,’ Mr Anwar said at an opposition rally here late Tuesday that drew some 10,000 supporters.

‘For a start, I will help our alliance candidate from PAS obtain a big victory,’ he said on the seafront of the state capital Kuala Terengganu.

Top figures in the alliance – Mr Anwar’s Keadilan as well as the Islamic party PAS and the Democratic Action Party that represents ethnic Chinese – stood shoulder-to-shoulder to dispel signs the partnership is under strain.

The partnership of three ideologically divided parties is intent on putting its differences aside for the by-election, which will be contested by PAS candidate Mohamad Abdul Wahid, 52.

The ruling party Umno (United Malays National Organisation) is fielding deputy home minister Wan Ahmad Farid, 46, for the vote, which will indicate whether it has lured back support since the general elections.

Mr Anwar had said he would topple the government by mid-September with the help of defecting lawmakers, after elections that saw the opposition gain five states and a third of parliamentary seats in unprecedented results.

But that deadline came and went and the promised mass defections from the Barisan Nasional never materialised.

His momentum stalled in October when Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi agreed to stand down in March, defusing public anger at the government’s handling of the economy and failure to introduce promised reforms.

The government is now exploiting bickering within the opposition, but Mr Anwar said the alliance was united despite disagreements over issues such as a PAS call for the introduction of Islamic ‘hudud’ law including the stoning of adulterers. — AFP