“By 16 August 2008 – Nomination Day at Permatang Pauh – online surveys indicated that the number of voters in favor of Anwar Ibrahim’s ascension to the Malaysian premiership had reached the region of 96%.”
All that venom, all that despicable personal attacks on Anwar, all that fear-mongering, all the race-baiting, all those big guns of the party, and all that money poured into the by-election, and what does the BN have to show for it?
– G Krishnan on Malaysiakini
The vote in his home state of Penang cemented a stunning comeback for Anwar, who was sacked as deputy premier a decade ago and jailed on sodomy and corruption charges widely seen as politically motivated.
“I thank God who has been with me through this gruelling election process. I thank the voters,” Anwar said as he arrived at the counting centre where some 30,000 supporters were holding a wild celebration.
“The message is clear… we have made a demand for change, for freedom and for justice,” he said. “The people do not want to be exploited. We want an economic order that protects all the people.”
Hundreds of riot police stood guard and a helicopter hovered overhead as the crowd gathered on a field outside the building, chanting “Putrajaya! Putrajaya!” — the name of the administrative capital and the seat of government.
The final tally showed Anwar won 31,195 votes, compared with 15,524 for his opponent from the Barisan Nasional coalition, which has dominated Malaysian politics for half a century.
“Yes of course we have lost… we were the underdogs going into this race,” said Muhammad Muhammad Taib, information chief of the United Malays National Organisation (UMNO), which leads the coalition.
Anwar said he had outgunned the government despite a “sickening” campaign that focused on new sodomy allegations against him, and was marred by allegations of vote-buying and electoral fraud.
The opposition has also accused the coalition of attempting to undermine Anwar by stoking tensions between Muslim Malays who dominate the population, and minority ethnic Chinese and Indian citizens.
“This is a clear indication that people of all races have rejected the communal politics of Barisan Nasional. It is a clear endorsement of our reform agenda. We are on track to take over the government,” Anwar told AFP.
Anwar had been widely expected to win back his old seat of Permatang Pauh, which his wife held during his political exile.
However, he defied expectations that the coalition’s no-holds-barred campaign would suppress his winning margin, which is being seen as an indicator of his ability to shrug off the sodomy charges.
Malaysia Today can be accessed at : http://mt.harapanmalaysia.com/2008/