Malaysia’s opposition figurehead Anwar Ibrahim said yesterday that he aims to return to parliament for the first time in a decade later this year if a court orders a by-election near his home town.
A high court in Kedah state will hear a challenge on Aug. 19 asking it to invalidate the result in a seat that was won by his Keadilan party in March 8 general elections.
Anwar said that if the court declares the result null and void he will contest the ensuing by-election.
“My plan is to contest in the Kulim-Bandar Baharu seat. I am optimistic of victory,” he said. “The constituency neighbors my hometown of Permatang Pauh in Penang. I am familiar with the locals there.”
A return to parliament would be the next step in the political rehabilitation of Anwar, who was sacked as deputy premier in 1998 and later jailed on sodomy and corruption charges.
The sex conviction was overturned but the corruption count barred him from public office until April.
Anwar, who was considered the heir apparent to then prime minister Mahathir Mohamad when he was fired, was expected to formally announce his plan at a party rally in the constituency later yesterday.
However, he admitted that new sodomy allegations leveled against him by a 23-year-old male former aide had put an “additional burden” on his family and his return to politics.
He said the claims were fabricated to prevent him from seizing power and showed he posed a serious threat to Malaysian Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi’s coalition, which has ruled Malaysia for more than 50 years.
The opposition parties — Keadilan, the Chinese-dominated Democratic Action Party (DAP) and the Pan-Malaysian Islamic Party (PAS) — humbled the governing Barisan Nasional coalition with unprecedented gains in the March elections.
Rallied by Anwar, the parties won more than a third of parliamentary seats and five of the 13 states in the general election, delivering Barisan Nasional its worst result since 1969.
In April, they announced a strategic alliance and Anwar said that PAS and DAP leaders had promised to mobilize their supporters for a by-election.