Malaysia’s Anwar Ibrahim sheds religious overtones

February 26th, 2008 - 1:48 pm ICT by admin  

Kuala Lumpur, Feb 26 (IANS) The all-inclusive approach in Malaysia’s March 8 elections, mainly by the ruling coalition Barisan Nasional (BN), has forced controversial former deputy prime minister Anwar Ibrahim to “reinvent himself”, a newspaper analysis said Tuesday. His Parti Kelaidan Rakyat (PKR) is a multiethnic outfit contesting 66 parliament and 126 state legislature seats. It is also carrying others under its banner, including four Parti Sosialis Malaysia leaders.

“Many of the PKR candidates are truly ‘Malaysians’ but will likely end up as election statistics, but this does not mean that there is no future for ‘Bangsa Malaysia’ or for multiracial politics in Malaysia,” The Star newspaper said.

It noted that from a firebrand Islamist youth leader in the 1980s, Ibrahim had joined the ruling coalition on the “Malay-only” platform and although barred from contesting the elections was leading a multiethnic party that was “politically correct”.

Ibrahim played a major role in Malaysia’s economic resurgence, till he fell foul of then prime minister Mahathir Mohamad who charged him with sodomy and corruption in 1999. Ibrahim was jailed and prosecuted for many years.

The bar on his contesting ends later this year. Early polls, The Star analyst said, robbed Ibrahim, 62, of his chance to contest.

“Considering the need to show a united, strong political face - both to Malaysians and his legions of foreign supporters - Anwar chose a multiracial platform. It was a ‘politically correct’ decision and successfully piled the pressure to free him and return him to the political mainstream.

“But in the process Anwar lost the two main planks he had ridden to come within a whisker of becoming prime minister - as champion of Malay nationalism and promoter and defender of Islam,” The Star said.

“Now, as a leader of a multiracial party, he cannot speak exclusively about Malay nationalism or about Islam but has to present himself as a Malaysian leader and stand on a platform of equality, justice and fairness for all Malaysian races.

“He has been walking on this multiracial platform since his 2004 release but has he succeeded in re-inventing himself, for a third time, as a Malaysian leader? The results of this election will show if he has succeeded or failed,” said the analyst.

Ibrahim “is under tremendous pressure to ensure his team wins between five and 20 seats but the reality of Malaysian politics makes it difficult for this to happen”, he noted.

The reason, the analysis said, is that as a multiracial party PKR is in middle-ground politics where the Barisan National is the strongest. “These are mixed-constituencies where enough Malays, Chinese and Indians vote for Barisan to give it its perennial two-third majority.”

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