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Former Malaysian Deputy Prime Minister Anwar to contest PKR presidency

Pardoned in May, the de facto leader of PKR hopes to become the political party’s president at its upcoming polls.

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Malaysian politician Anwar Ibrahim announced on Sunday (July 15) that he plans to contest the People’s Justice Party (PKR) presidency in September after discussing the matter with his wife, Wan Azizah Wan Ismail, and party leaders.

“After discussing with Azizah, the deputy president and the leadership, and after taking into account every view and need for the continuity of PKR… I hereby offer myself to contest the position of PKR president.

“God willing, if I receive the mandate from the party grassroots throughout the whole country, I will steer the party as president after the completion of PKR’s national congress which will be held in November 2018,” Anwar said in a statement, according to The Star.

Anwar’s decision to the contest comes after spending three years in jail for sodomy, a charge he claims was politically motivated.

It was the second time the former Islamist student leader had been jailed for the offence. Anwar was first accused of sodomy in 1998, when he was deputy prime minister to then Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad. Widely viewed as Mahathir’s heir apparent, his abrupt dismissal – and subsequent conviction – led to the reformasi movement and the formation of PKR.

Anwar was unable to run for the presidency earlier due to the Societies Act prohibiting those convicted of an offense from contesting or holding office in society.

Now, the former rising star of Malaysian politics seems poised to make a comeback, having struck a bargain with his erstwhile enemy, Mahathir.

A former leader of Malaysia’s largest party UMNO, Mahathir teamed up with his one-time rivals in the opposition Pakatan Harapan coalition earlier this year. In a surprise twist, he was named their presidential candidate on the condition that he make way for Anwar to assume the role should he be released from jail and receive a royal pardon.

Anwar pardoned shortly after Pakatan Harapan’s surprise win over the Barisan Nasional coalition on May 9, paving the way for his return to politics.

In an interview at Komtar last week, PKR youth chief Dr Afif Bahardin said that the growing call for Anwar to contest the party’s presidential post is nothing new, The Star reported.

“We were unable to do that due to the Registrar of Societies restriction. PKR was founded and formed because of reformasi movement inspired by what happened to Anwar. And now ‘is the right time’ to put him in his rightful place as the leader of reformasi movement and ‘catalyst for change in Malaysia,’” he said.

“There is a lot of support and talk within the party, including grassroots, who would like Anwar to lead the party as president.

“We have to prepare him for the eventuality so that when he takes over as the PM, he would be ready,” Afif is quoted as saying in The Star.

Anwar will first have to become a member of parliament before he can become prime minister. Mahathir has said he will continue to lead the country for an estimated two years – though he has remarked that it could be more.

Johor PKR expressed its support for Anwar after he announced that his decision to contest the presidency.

Johor PKR chief Hassan Abdul Karim said that Anwar, if given the mandate by the members, would be able to unite the party and help strengthen Pakatan Harapan, The Star reported.

“We believe that he can bring the party to greater heights which will earn the respect and admiration of our friends and foes.

“Anwar is not just an influential leader in the party but can be regarded as an institution whereby his ideology, thoughts and struggles are close to us,” he said in a statement on Sunday (July 15), according to The Star.

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Nadia Chevroulet
About the Author: Nadia is an Associate Editor at Asia News Network.

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