Anwar Ibrahim returns to the Malaysian parliament August 29, 2008Posted by Sverre in : Malaysia, World politics , trackback
Anwar Ibrahim, former “crown prince” of the Malaysian government party UMNO – for many years convicted to exile form Malaysian politics, is now set to return to the Malaysian parliament after winning the by-election in his home constituency of Permatang Pauh in the Malaysian state Penang (Pulau Pinang). He fills a parliamentary seat left open by the withdrawal of his wife. The election came as no surprise to anyone, but is extremely significant, as it shows an Anwar who is back on his feet and once again leading the opposition after being removed from power by former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad (you can read more about that in the post “Sex, Lies and Capital Controls” from this blog).
To many, Anwar Ibrahim’s arrest and conviction on charges of corruption in 1998 was seen as a decisive victory by then prime minister Mahathir. Likewise, it was by many (my self included) seen as a decisive crackdown on the call for democratic reform by the power of Malaysian autocracy. Anwar’s real return to politics this week turns that short term victory into a long term setback. Not only has Anwar personally been able to return to a position of leadership, but his political ideas of “reformasi”) are still alive, represented by his party Pakatan Rakyat (People’s Justice and are now strongly represented in the parliament. Strong enough to take away the parliament 2/3 majority that the government coalition Barisan Nasional (of which UMNO is the most prominent member) has held since the country’s independence in 1957.
The weakened power of the Malaysian autocracy has further been demonstrated by the fact that new charges of sodomy have been launched, so far without costing Anwar his election. As a member of the governing party, he was easily discharged from the parliament in 1998. As leader of the opposition that might prove significantly more difficult.
As the blog Unspun has commented, it’s not entirely clear whether the election victory comes on behalf of opposition to UMNO or a genuine support for Anwar. This may of course be significant in the long term, but for now it has served Anwar’s and Pakatan Rakyat’s cause. And whatever the real reason – Anwar’s decisive reelection provides renewed hope and energy to all those who still fight for democratic reform in Malaysia.
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