Australian Broadcasting Corporation
Malaysian opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim is widely expected to win a parliamentary by-election next Tuesday.
The former Deputy Prime Minster believes he can gain enough support in Parliament to take control of Malaysia’s Government. But first he must reclaim the seat of Permatang Pauh. And Chinese voters could wield considerable in determining the winner of the August 26 by-election.
Presenter: Steve Holland
Speakers: Wan Azizah Wan Ismail
HOLLAND: Campaigning for the seat of Permatang Pauh is underway. Thousands of political posters litter the streets of the small industrial area as Datuk Arif Shah Omar Shah, from the ruling Barisan Nasional and Datuk Sri Anwar Ibrahim and his PKR opposition compete for the crucial constituency. But black market bookmakers in Penang State have placed the odds squarely in favour of the opposition.
BETTING AGENT: �100 dollars �
HOLLAND: Oh ok, ok, so Anwar Ibrahim is clearly the bookie’s favourite to win.
BETTING AGENT: Yes, yes.
HOLLAND: The by election came about when the seat was vacated by Wan Azizah Wan Ismail, Anwar Ibrahim’s wife. Now that his ban on politics has ended a victory in Permatang Pauh is seen as Anwar Ibrahim’s best chance to return to parliament, as his family has strong support in a constituency they’ve controlled for more than two decades.
Wan Azizah Wan Ismail says a win for her husband in Permatang Pauh could eventually alter Malaysia’s political landscape.
ISMAIL: And if we make it because we are up against a whole machinery of government and the biased Election Commission too, so but we have our hopes and we believe in the people and the voters. And if the result is that we win I think we will make a drastic change in the way the government or even change the government itself.
HOLLAND: Marko Ben is the Permatang Pauh division chairman for the Malaysian Chinese Association, part of the ruling coalition. He says for Barisan Nasional, which has controlled Malaysia’s government since the country gained independence in 1957 a victory in Permatang Pauh is also of great importance. He believes it’s crucial for BN to cement its control of parliament with a win in Penang State after suffering its greatest ever losses during the March elections.
BEN: This place is that Anwar’s important place is very powerful area here in here. We can conquer the areas here then that means that we can win the seat we can solve Malaysia that in this area.
HOLLAND: Anwar Ibrahim promises equality and offers unity to all Malays, and the Chinese vote which comprises 25 per cent of the electorate could be a deciding factor. But BN is also clearly targeting the Chinese. It has just given about 400-thousand US dollars to Chinese schools in the area, and with BN’s Arif Shah Omar Shah being Chinese educated and fluent in Mandarin, the battle for Permatang Pauh may not be as one-sided as the bookies are predicting.