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Anwar Makes Victorious Return to Malaysian Parliament


Malaysian opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim was sworn in as a member of parliament after winning a crucial by-election by a landslide, bringing him closer to his pledge to topple the government. VOA's Nancy-Amelia Collins in Jakarta has more.

Malaysia's opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim came a step closer Thursday to achieving his goal of bringing down the government and implementing reforms after being sworn in to parliament following an absence of 10 years from political office.

A jubilant Anwar says his winning his seat means Malaysians want change.

"I consider this as a very defining moment in our history," he said. "And this is in pursuance of the clamor and demand for change that you have seen during the elections."

Anwar's re-entry into the political arena has come at a price. The 61-year-old former deputy prime minister was forced from office in 1998 on sodomy and corruption charges that landed him in prison for 6 years.

Sodomy is illegal in Muslim Malaysia and punishable by up to 20 years in jail.

The Supreme Court overturned his sodomy conviction in 2004, releasing him from jail, but the corruption charges stuck, carrying a ban that barred him from holding office until April 2008.

Anwar, whose opposition alliance won a third of parliament in the March general elections, has always maintained the sodomy and corruption charges were politically motivated.

His wife, Wan Azizah Wan Ismail, vacated her seat in June, paving the way for Anwar's return to parliament.

But shortly before the by-elections, Anwar, a father of six, was again charged with sodomy - this time with his 23-year-old aide. He vehemently denies the charges, and polls show most Malaysians believe him.

Anwar has vowed to would bring down the government, implement reforms, and focus on the country's ailing economy.

But he will still need to convince 30 lawmakers from the governing coalition to switch sides before he can bring down the government of Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad
Badawi.

Abdullah, who did not attend Anwar's swearing in, says his government has the mandate of the people.

"We can still form a very strong government and it is our intention to do that," he said. "We are very aware of the mandate that has been given to us. We must honor the mandate."

Abdullah's party has been the main pillar of the Barisan Nacional party that has ruled Malaysia since independence in 1957.

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