Sunday, April 13, 2008

Malaysian PM-in-waiting Anwar marks end of political ban; former PM Dr M lashes out at Anwar and present PM Abdullah to save his legacy

Malaysian opposition leader Anwar marks end of political banMalaysian opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim on Monday celebrates his official return to the political stage, as a ban from public office expires a decade after he was sacked as deputy prime minister.
The lifting of the ban marks the end of an extraordinary saga that saw Anwar convicted on sex and corruption charges and spend six years in jail, before storming back to prominence in historic March elections.
With Anwar at the helm, a reinvigorated opposition seized a third of parliamentary seats and five states in the worst ever showing for the Barisan Nasional coalition that has ruled for half a century.
Now the 60-year-old maverick is once again being touted as a future prime minister, but this time for his Pakatan Rakyat opposition alliance which he has described as a "government-in-waiting."
Anwar had been expected to re-enter parliament quickly through a by-election in one of the seats held by his Keadilan party, and to challenge Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi in a symbolic no-confidence vote soon after.
But in light of the stunning and unexpected gains, although he is eligible to run for office from Tuesday, he has said he is in no hurry to act.
"Certainly not in the next few months," he said in a weekend interview with The Star daily. "Building up an effective, creditable Pakatan Rakyat is to my mind far more important for now."
"My number-one priority is to ensure accountability and good governance in maintaining the five states."
Anwar said the expiry of the political ban "has no significance in my mind" because he does not recognise the decision of the court which convicted him of corruption.
But Keadilan is nevertheless holding a major rally on Monday evening, with thousands of supporters of Anwar's campaign for "Reformasi" (Reform) expected to attend to hear him speak. "It will be a huge gathering of all our supporters, of what we call the Reformasi crowd, people who have been struggling for the past 10 years," Keadilan's information chief Tian Chua told AFP.
"Of course we feel that our struggle has been redeemed and recognised, and we are optimistic that our agenda for reform can be implemented," said Tian, who is also a newly minted parliamentarian in the March 8 polls.
Abdullah has refused to stand down despite the electoral debacle, insisting he has a mandate to rule and promising to introduce the reforms which he promised years ago but was punished for never delivering.
But the opposition and many political commentators believe the coalition led by Abdullah's United Malays National Organisation will continue to flounder and that Anwar could seize power within a few years, or perhaps even a few months.
"I think they are very likely to form the next government and it's a matter of timing, of when this will take place, whether it's at the next elections or before then," said Tricia Yeoh of the Centre for Public Policy Studies.
Anwar has said that coalition lawmakers from Sabah and Sarawak states on Borneo island are interested in switching sides, a prospect that could quickly unseat the government, but Yeoh said he will let the dust settle first.
"There are too many seismic shifts taking place in too short a period and they do want to have a stable handover. If it were to take place, they would want the economy and tourism to be stable," she said.
The prospect of Anwar seizing the top job is an astonishing twist in a story that saw him hauled to court, dealt a black eye in a beating by the police chief, and the subject of lurid testimony over sex charges that were later dropped.
Mahathir Mohamad, the former premier who ruled Malaysia with an iron fist for two decades, can barely contain his irritation over the change in fortunes of his one-time protege who he sacked after months of discord over economic policy.
"He shouldn't kid himself into thinking he is very popular. He is not popular," he told reporters Saturday.
Source: AFP via MSN News -
Dr Mahathir Mohamad giving a talk in Putrajaya, Saturday. — Bernama pic
Anwar as PM? Only if the Israelis vote him - NST
KAJANG: Only the Israelites will vote Parti Keadilan Rakyat adviser Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim as prime minister, said former prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad.
"Well, Haaretz (Israeli newspaper) thinks he is going to be the prime minister. It is the only paper in the world which thinks he is going to be the prime minister... he is the prime minister that the Israelis will vote for," he said at a Malay leadership forum here yesterday.
Dr Mahathir said this in response to a question whether Anwar had any credibility to be elected prime minister.
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Dr M wants Abdullah to step down NOW – The Malaysian Insider
KUALA LUMPUR, April 12 ─ Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad wants Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi to step down as party president now.
He said that by clinging on to power Abdullah would only throw Umno into a further state of chaos, following the election on March 8.
His comments, made at a post-election session in Kajang, come a day after Johor Umno decided that it would continue to support Abdullah as the party president and PM.

Malaysia's Mahathir urges PM to quit now to save reputation –AFP via MSN News
Former Malaysian leader Mahathir Mohamad has called on Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi to resign immediately, saying his reputation will be shredded if he insists on staying on in the top job.
Mahathir renewed his campaign to oust Abdullah shortly after the prime minister reportedly told his party he would hold discussions after December internal party polls on a handover of power to his deputy Najib Razak.
"For his own good he should step down now because then (the transition) will be very smooth but if you wait until the (party polls) you don't know what the people are going to say," Mahathir said late Saturday.
"There may be rude remarks, they may say, 'Why don't you go?' You know, all the kinds of nasty accusations, finger pointing," he told reporters after addressing 1,000 United Malays National Organisation (UMNO) members.
"If he waits until the elections, it will cause a major split within the party because those who support him and those who oppose him will clash at the assembly."

BN will topple, get ready - malaysiakini
Gear up and change your mind-set from that of opposition leaders to that of government, because the possibility of Pakatan Rakyat (PR) taking over at the federal level is becoming very real, PAS Youth told PR parliamentarians and state representatives today.
Its chief Salahuddin Ayub said BN component parties are currently torn apart by internal problems and are too distracted to focus on the business of governing.
And given the expected crossing-over of at least ten BN MPs to PR “in the next few weeks” and the “domino effect” this will have on other BN parliamentarians, this has given rise to the situation where PR leaders have to fill the void left by a distracted BN, said Salahuddin.
“We are not dreaming, it (forming the federal government) is a possibility that can come true at any time,” he told a press conference at PAS headquarters in Kuala Lumpur.

Singapore ST calls it 'Mahathir's last stand' – themalaysianinsider KUALA LUMPUR, April 13 — The superheated bid by Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad to topple Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi has naturally drawn the close attention of our closest neighbour, Singapore.
In what it called "Mahathir's last stand", the island republic's leading newspaper The Straits Times yesterday said "the political mudslinging and blame game stemming from last month's polls have reopened the debate on Tun Dr Mahathir's legacy".

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