‘Retired’ Mahathir not to fight Anwar Ibrahim in pollsAugust 10th, 2008 - 2:05 pm ICT by IANS
Kuala Lumpur, Aug 10 (IANS) Malaysia’s former prime minister Mahathir Mohamad said he has “retired from politics” and will not fight Anwar Ibrahim, his old political foe and deputy prime minister, in a parliamentary by-election. He also admitted that it would be difficult to defeat Ibrahim, who is in the eye of a controversy over a sodomy charge, in the Permatang Pau constituency that has remained an opposition stronghold.
Mahathir was speaking at a public function in Kuala Terenganu Saturday and was asked if he would stand as an independent candidate against Ibrahim, The Star newspaper reported Sunday.
“I am retired (from politics). I will not return. As a citizen I have the liberty to make any comments on what is transpiring in my country, that’s all,” the former prime minister said.
Mahathir had sacked Ibrahim as deputy on an earlier sodomy charge in 1998.
Being prosecuted again for the same charge, this time by a former political aide, Ibrahim is fighting the government in court, police stations and at public rallies, even as he prepares to contest the by-election.
Wan Azizah Wan Ismail, his wife and opposition leader in parliament, vacated the seat last month to cause the by-election that Ibrahim hopes to win and stage a political comeback.
He emerged politically strong in March, heading a fledgling opposition alliance that bagged an unprecedented 82 seats in parliament and control of five of Malaysia’s 13 states.
The government of Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi is keen to give Ibrahim a tough fight.
Deputy Prime Minister Najib Razak has said the ruling coalition must sink differences and concentrate on defeating Ibrahim.
“We will mobilise the machinery from all wings to ensure that we face the by-election fully prepared,” he said after meeting workers of the United Malaysians National Organisation (Umno), which leads the Barisan National coalition.
The Barisan Nasional is yet to decide on a candidate. Mahathir observed that it would be difficult to find a suitable candidate against Ibrahim.
Ibrahim has won since 1982 and during his years in jail, his wife had won twice with a larger majority vote, he pointed out.
Added Mahathir, who has been a critic of his successor Badawi: “If Anwar wins with a higher majority, it translates that Umno had lost its popularity.”
Meanwhile, Malaysian Indian Congress (MIC) chief S. Samy Vellu also said that his party would campaign against Ibrahim. The Indian community makes up 5.7 percent of the 58,449 voters in Permatang Pauh.
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