Malaysia’s Anwar: Opposition has ‘fair chance’ to win polls

BANGKOK – Malaysian opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim on Thursday said he believes his tripartite coalition has a “fair chance” to win a general election that could be called as early as May. 11.

Anwar leads the Alliance of Hope, which previously teamed up with a Malay nationalist party led by former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad to win a historic victory in the 2018 election. Anger over corruption has led to the stunning defeat of the United Malays National Organization, which had ruled Malaysia since independence from Britain in 1957.

Anwar was in prison at the time for well-known allegations that he said were politically motivated. He has been pardoned following the polls, and is expected to take over as prime minister from Mahathir. But the reformist government collapsed after less than two years in defection, and UMNO returned to power.

Anwar, 75, said at a news conference in Bangkok, Thailand, that his coalition still has strong support, while there is infighting within Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob’s ruling coalition. and corruption in government.

“I remain optimistic,” he said, “I think we should have a fair chance” without Mahathir on the strength of the Alliance of Hope itself, Anwar said.

He said there was a small chance the election would be held in November, but it could also be held in February or March to avoid the end-of-year monsoon season that often brings heavy rains and flooding.

A general election is due next September, but Ismail has come under pressure from within UMNO to dissolve Parliament for early polls. Ismail has raised the introduction of the 2023 budget by three weeks until October 7, sparking speculation that Parliament could be dissolved after generous budget allocations were made to win support. households in the polls. An election must be called within 60 days after Parliament is dissolved.

Although Ismail was from UMNO, he was dependent on support from allied Malay parties. UMNO, which has said it will not work with its current allies in upcoming polls, is aiming for a big win so it won’t be snubbed by any other party.

Calls for an early poll from UMNO increased after former Prime Minister Najib Razak began a 12-year prison sentence last month after losing his case in a lawsuit related to the massive looting of 1MDB state funds.

Anwar said Najib, along with several other UMNO ministers, had signed pledges last year to support Anwar’s bid to become prime minister but wanted Anwar to promise that he would not be convicted. Anwar said his leadership attempt failed because he refused to interfere in Najib’s trials.

He said Najib’s arrest was a “clear case” and should be a lesson for all political leaders not to waste public funds.

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