Malaysia’s beleaguered opposition leader Anwar wins crucial election (Lead)

August 27th, 2008 - 1:23 pm ICT by IANS  

Kuala Lumpur, Aug 27 (DPA) Malaysian opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim Wednesday hailed a long-awaited imminent return to parliament after he scored a thumping victory in a special election.”We won! And our victory is decisive and overwhelming,” Anwar said in his blog early Wednesday.

“And it’s great to be back!”

The former deputy prime minister will be sworn in to parliament at a simple ceremony Thursday, officials said.

Anwar was the clear favourite to win in Tuesday’s by-election in the northern Permatang Pauh constituency, where he was pitted against Arif Shah Omar Shah from the ruling National Front coalition.

However, the astounding majority he obtained - more than double the votes won by his opponent - has stunned his detractors and seemingly paved the way for the charismatic leader to fulfil his claims of taking over the government by mid-September.

“Our calls for national unity, good governance and a vibrant democracy have silenced the voices of racist chanting, those who profit from the abuse of power and exploit the politics of fear and deceit,” Anwar wrote.

“We have promised a New Dawn for Malaysia and we will deliver on our promise.”

Tuesday’s victory paved the way for Anwar to return to parliament as the head of a three-party opposition alliance, grouping his own People’s Justice Party, the Democratic Action Party and the hardline Parti Islam SeMalaysia.

Anwar held the Permatang Pauh seat from 1982 to 1999 when he was forced to quit after being ousted from the government and put on trial for corruption and sodomy.

He was convicted and imprisoned on both charges, which he denied, but was freed after Malaysia’s top court overturned the sodomy conviction in 2004.

After Anwar vacated the seat, his wife, Wan Azizah Ismail, represented the constituency from 1999 to 2008 before stepping down to make way for her husband.

“The people have rejected oppression and they are saying they do not want to be taken for granted any longer,” Anwar said to a gathering of tens of thousands of supporters late Tuesday after he was announced the winner.

“The people have sent a strong message to the Government.”

Anwar sees his victory in the elections as the next major step to toppling the government of Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi.

In Malaysia’s March elections, Anwar led his opposition alliance to major gains, capturing 82 out of 222 seats in Parliament and taking control in five of 13 states.

Anwar, 61, did not run in the March election because of a ban on holding political office, stemming from his previous corruption conviction. The ban lapsed in April.

He has since maintained that several government lawmakers would soon be announcing their defection to the opposition, giving him the numbers to take over the government by Sep 16.

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