Malaysia’s Anwar returns to parliament after 10-year absence
KUALA LUMPUR (AFP) — Malaysia’s opposition figurehead Anwar Ibrahim Tuesday said “there is no turning back” in his political career after returning to parliament after a 10-year absence.
The 60-year-old former deputy prime minister and once heir-apparent to long-time former premier Mahathir Mohamad was sacked and jailed a decade ago for corruption and sodomy, although the sex charge was later overturned.
He now leads a resurgent opposition, although he does not have a seat in parliament after his release from prison in 2004 after spending six years in jail.
Until earlier this month he was banned from standing for office because of the charges and has not said when he intends to stand in a by-election so he can compete for a seat.
Nevertheless on Tuesday he returned to the Parliament hall for the first time in ten years — albeit made to sit in the public gallery — and said it was a new start for him in politics after a turbulent decade.
“It has begun. It is a new beginning. Now that I have entered, I will not be leaving,” he told reporters from the gallery after seeing Malaysian King Tuanku Mizan Zainal Abidin open a new session of parliament.
It is a much-changed parliament after March 8 general elections saw the ruling Barisan Nasional coalition lose its two-thirds majority to an emboldened Anwar-inspired Pakatan Rakyat opposition alliance.
Anwar recently said there are enough potential defectors within the government to topple Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi’s administration and last week confidently predicted he would be prime minister within three years.
He declined to put specifics on when he might contest a seat. “We are in discussions… However it is too early (to state when),” he said.
Anwar had been expected to re-enter parliament quickly through a by-election in one of the seats held by his Keadilan party, and to challenge Abdullah in a symbolic no-confidence vote soon after.
He urged opposition MPs to use their positions to rattle an increasingly embattled Abdullah, who is facing calls to resign.
“We want our MPs to carry out their responsibilities well. They should provide a strong opposition voice and shake parliament,” he said.
The Barisan Nasional coalition has ruled Malaysia for more than half a century since the former colony gained independence from Britain but has been rocked by its unprecedented electoral setback in March.
The Pakatan Rakyat opposition alliance claimed more than a third of parliamentary seats and five states in the polls, putting Abdullah under heavy pressure.