Voting on in key Malaysian by-poll involving Anwar Ibrahim

August 26th, 2008 - 11:30 am ICT by IANS  

Kuala Lumpur, Aug 26 (IANS) Voting began Tuesday in Permatang Pauh, a tiny parliamentary constituency in Malaysia’s Penang state that has become important because of the opposition candidate - former deputy prime minister Anwar Ibrahim who is hoping to make a political comeback after a decade. Ibrahim is contesting the by-election even as he is fighting a sodomy charge - identical to what he faced a decade ago and which cost him his political career - levelled by an aide.

Ibrahim has denied the charge, calling it a conspiracy by the government to prevent his return to parliament. However, Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi has rejected claims of a conspiracy.

Ibrahim is being opposed by a local influential legislator, Arif Shah Omar Shah of the ruling Barisan Nasional.

Permatang Pauh has 58,000 voters of which 24 percent are ethnic Chinese and six percent ethnic Indians. The voters’ turnout was early and substantial, reports by Star Online said.

The by-poll was caused by the resignation of Ibrahim’s wife, Wan Azizah Wan Ismail, who was the leader of the opposition in parliament. The couple emerged politically strong in the March general elections, heading an opposition alliance that won an unprecedented 82 seats in Parliament and control of five of the 13 states.

Since then, Ibrahim has repeatedly threatened that he could bring down Badawi’s government by engineering cross-voting.

Badawi and his Deputy Prime Minister Najib Razak have been involved in wordy duels with Ibrahim in the run-up to the by-poll, demanding among other things that Ibrahim swear by the Quran to deny the sodomy charge, NST Online said Tuesday.

Badawi expressed satisfaction with the way the 10-day campaign was conducted and the poll arrangements. However, the campaign triggered considerable political debate as the government stationed 5,000 police personnel.

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