News / Asia

Malaysia’s Opposition Leader Sees Early Elections

Malaysia's opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim (file photo)
Malaysia's opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim (file photo)
Ron Corben

Malaysian opposition leader, Anwar Ibrahim, says he expects the Malaysian government of Prime Minister Najib Razak to call early elections within months despite one more year for the government’s term in office to run. Anwar says the opposition is pegging its hopes of winning control of the government, for the first time in six decades, on policies promoting economic reforms.

Malaysia’s opposition leader, Anwar Ibrahim, is predicting Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak will hold elections  within months, well ahead of the end of the goverment's full term in office in March, 2013.

Anwar, speaking to reporters in Bangkok, pointed to recently announced  government income support programs as a sign the governing coalition parties were preparing the people for a national vote.

“I would assume that the elections are just around the corner. We had a discussion among the opposition coalition yesterday - most of them are not too convinced that the election will be very soon. But I told them - and I think it will be much sooner than later. But it’s tough for us because the campaign period will be one week - the shortest in the world,” he said.

Prime Minister Najib, who came to office in mid-term in 2009, has triggered this speculation of early elections in recent months.

Former Prime Minister, Mahathir Mohamad, has warned the ruling UMNO coalition to allow more time to boost support especially among the Chinese minority before holding elections.

Anwar said the opposition would be offering the people major economic reforms, including an end to programs that in the past led to affirmative action policies - known as the New Economic Policy - that provided the majority ethnic group, the Malays,  with education, housing and employment preferences.

“So the [opposition] economic policy clearly states that we have to dismantle what we consider as obsolete race-based New Economic Policy to replace it with the Malaysian Economic Agenda which promotes growth, which has to bring back Malaysia into a growing vibrant economy, more competitive able to attract  - as in attractive destination for investments,” he said.

Anwar said Malaysia had fallen behind on the regional economic ladder over the past 20 years as other countries such as South Korea, Taiwan, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam and more recently the Philippines, captured a larger share of foreign investment, growth and competitiveness. He said if he won the election his government would also look to address corruption, assist the poor and the marginalized communities.

The governing United Malays National Organization - UMNO - which has led Malaysia since independence in 1957 has been facing increasing challenges from the opposition parties over recent years, especially in state elections.

Under Anwar the opposition made strong gains in national elections in 2008.

Anwar, a former finance minister under Prime Minister Mahathir, has faced a long political battle after he was sentenced to six years in prison for corruption in 1999 and another nine years for charges of sodomy.

But a federal court in 2004 quashed the second conviction and he was released. In January this year the Court again acquitted Anwar on a second sodomy charge. The Malaysian prosecutors are appealing the verdict.

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