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Anwar cools off campaign but remains focus on takeover

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September 25, 2008

Malaysia Power Struggle:
Anwar cools off campaign but remains focus on takeover

After failing to seize power by his self-imposed deadline of September 16, Malaysia's opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim indicated Wednesday he is cooling off his campaign to topple the government through defection of ruling party lawmakers.

"I along with my colleagues in Pakatan remain confident that the people's desire for change shall soon be attained," Anwar said in a statement.

Pakatan refers to the three-party opposition coalition known as the People's Alliance.

Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi has rejected Anwar's request for a meeting to discuss a "peaceful and orderly transfer of power."

He has also rejected Anwar's demand to convene an emergency Parliament meeting on Tuesday to deliberate a motion of no confidence against the premier.

Anwar, the de facto head of the People's Justice Party or PKR, insists he has enough lawmakers' support to take over the government.

In his statement, he blamed Abdullah and the ruling party, the United Malays National Organization, for attempting to tempts "to sabotage and scuttle the democratic process."

He said he discussed his next course of action Tuesday with his opposition coalition partners, the Pan Islamic Party or PAS, and the Democratic Action Party.

It is no secret that Anwar's takeover bid has never been wholeheartedly endorsed by his coalition partners, with some questioning the ethics of toppling a legitimately elected government.

But as analysts point out, the possibility of being in government after more than 50 years in the opposition was what persuaded the PAS and DAP leaders to stick with Anwar thus far.

"I appeal to Malaysian citizens, particularly those who want to see a change, to understand this and be a bit more patient because we do not want to transgress the rule and constitutional principles and procedures. It will take a lot of patience and resolve to try and unravel this complex web of control by few cronies," Anwar told reporters later after appearing in court for a preliminary hearing of his second sodomy charge.

A former 23-year-old aide has accused him of the sex crime which is punishable with up to 20 years in jail and possible whipping. Anwar has pleaded innocent, accusing the aide of being planted by the ruling elites to stop his political ascent.

But while Anwar is battling his second sodomy charge in a decade, he has also been working to unseat Abdullah by engineering defection of lawmakers from the ruling National Front coalition or BN, of which UMNO is the largest party.

The opposition currently holds 82 seats in the Parliament while BN controls 140. Anwar needs at least 31 BN lawmakers on his side to bring down the BN government.

Anwar is going for the kill now knowing that Abdullah is at his weakest after facing pressure, even from within UMNO, to step down following the March election that allowed the opposition to break through BN's two-thirds grip in Parliament for the first time in over 50 years.

The public is also disgruntled over Abdullah's perceived inability to manage the economy as the price of goods has skyrocketed and his reform measures to rid corruption in the judiciary and the police appear to be headed nowhere.

Anwar said he may consider tabling a no-confidence motion in Parliament, but noted, "There is no guarantee that the motion will be accepted."

The Parliament speaker has rarely allowed an opposition no-confidence motion to go through debate and previous attempts such a motion have been shot down.

Anwar has the option to go to the king to seek a mandate for him to rule if he really has the support of the parliamentary lawmakers, but Anwar has discounted the option as one of last resort.

In a related news, Malasia state news agency Bernama quoted Anwar as saying Wednesday that Pakatan (the opposition coalition) would send a letter to the Malaysian King on the transfer of power from Barisan Nasional to the opposition pact, and the request to convene a special parliament session.

"The letter to the Yang di-Pertuan Agong (King) is about a peaceful transfer of power and a special parliament session to table a no-confidence motion against the prime minister,” said Anwar.

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