Malaysia prepares for ‘mother of all’ by-elections involving Ibrahim

August 4th, 2008 - 4:24 pm ICT by IANS  


Kuala Lumpur, Aug 4 (IANS) Considerable political heat is being generated in Malaysia, even before the date is decided for what is being billed as “the mother of all by-elections”, to be contested by controversial opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim. Ibrahim arrived Sunday to a rapturous home-coming from large crowds at Permataqng Pauh, the parliamentary constituency vacated by his wife to facilitate the by-election.

He told a rally hearing him in “rapt attention” that he would contest even if he was placed “completely behind bars”, and win, The Star newspaper said Monday.

The reference to jail is because of the sodomy charge slapped against Ibrahim, 63, by a political aide in June that has had him battling the government in court and at police stations.

Ibrahim has denied the charge and has termed it a conspiracy to prevent his political come-back through the by-election.

The newspaper reported that “big guns” had already arrived at Permatang Pauh, near the nation capital, while the Election Commission would decide on the precise date after consulting officials Wednesday.

Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, who attended a private wedding at Permatang Pauh, asked leaders of his party, the United Malaysian National Organisation (UMNO), to fully concentrate on winning the by-election, media reports said.

The by-poll could take place possibly in the last week of August or first week of September, said The Star Monday.

This is Malaysia’s first parliamentary by-election since the March general elections that saw Badawi victorious, but considerably weakened. The results denied ruling coalition Barisan Nasional its traditional two-thirds majority.

It also saw the emergence of an 82-member opposition block in parliament that formed the Pakatan Rakyat with Ibrahim’s wife Wan Azizah Wan Ismail election leader of the parliamentary opposition.

Ibrahim has been keen to return to parliament after a bar on his seeking election, imposed when he was fighting an earlier sodomy charge levelled in 1998, was lifted in April this year.

He has been threatening to bring the Badawi government down by engineering floor-crossing by lawmakers by September, something Badawi has termed as “bluff”.

On allegations that he was buying Barisan Nasional elected representatives to cross over to the Pakatan Rakyat, Ibrahim said he did not have the money to buy the politicians.

Ibrahim later appealed to the public to donate at least RM 1 each for his election campaigns in Permatang Pauh.

The government fears violence during the campaign. Election Commission deputy chairman Datuk Wan Ahmad Wan Omar said the law stipulated a minimum of seven days to campaign.

“This is the first time after the 12th general election that the country will see a by-election. It is a small election but with a big focus and it should be given serious attention,” he told Star Online Sunday. He said the commission would discuss the timeline Wednesday.

Pematang Pauh voters have elected Ibrahim since 1982. His wife has contested it since 1999 after he was banned from contesting.

The couple has said that her vacating the seat is not so much a “soami-istree” (husband-wife) issue.

“I am vacating my seat not for personal interests, but for our common struggle to create history in Permatang Pauh, for Anwar to lead the nation,” she said in her speech.

Meanwhile, the government is keeping its word on Ibrahim’s investigation, taking it away from Attorney General Abdul Gani Patail and Inspector General Musa Hasan, the two top officials Ibrahim has accused of fabricating evidence against him in the earlier sodomy charge.

The probe is being handled by Solicitor General Idrus Harun and Deputy IGP Ismail Omar, Home Minister Syed Hamid Albar said Sunday.

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