Anwar says ‘Malaysian Spring’ in progress

(The Malaysian Insider) – A “Malaysian Spring” was already under way and Pakatan Rakyat (PR) “would win power in any fair forthcoming poll”, Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim told the Financial Times.

FT reported that Anwar, 64, was looking to relaunch his political career and appeared to pose stiff competition for Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak to head the next government with his calls for snap polls and widespread economic reforms.

In an interview with Anwar in Mumbai, the opposition leader had raised questions about the fairness in the next elections, and accused Najib’s government of “election fraud” while failing to carry out various reform, including ending racial economic policies that benefit the majority Malays at the expense of the minority ethnic Chinese and Indian communities, the paper said.

The paper said Anwar was planning to meet with political allies upon his return to Malaysia and begin drafting “a radical election manifesto” that would focus on economic reforms as “corruption and cronyism” under the ruling Barisan Nasional (BN) government would see the country lose out to its Southeast Asian neighbours such as Thailand and Vietnam.

Anwar’s party colleagues in the PKR had said they were offering a new deal to clean up the country in the next elections.

Anwar has called for measures to open up Malaysia’s economy to foreign investors through greater privatisation deals and ending government monopolies and subsidies in certain sectors such as car manufacturing and sugar production, FT reported.

Najib’s attack against political foe Anwar yesterday suggest the 13th general election are likely to be called sooner rather than later, according to an influential international daily.

FT pointed to the intensifying political rivalry between the prime minister and his former colleague-turned-opposition leader following Anwar’s acquittal on a sodomy charge — the second in his career — on Monday.

“Mr Najib, who has been in power since 2009, increased speculation about an early election by attacking Mr Anwar in a forthright speech in Kuala Lumpur on Thursday,” it said in an article titled “Anwar in bid to lead ‘Malaysian Spring’.”

Najib must call for elections before March 2013, which is when the mandate expires.

FT said Najib had argued that Monday’s acquittal showed Malaysia’s judiciary was independent and left voters with “a clear choice to make”.

It noted the 58-year-old PM had also questioned the viability of Anwar’s PR pact, and calling the opposition leader “a man who can barely hold his own coalition together”.

Anwar too had suggested that worsening global economic conditions could prompt Najib to call early elections between March and June this year, the paper said.

Analysts have said that the prime minister should call for a snap poll so as to take advantage of the feel-good factor of the verdict and people’s happiness in receiving a RM500 direct cash aid while opposition leaders are confident Najib will delay the election in order to build up support.

But a Putrajaya insider confirmed to The Malaysian Insider that the prime minister was still weighing his options in dissolving Parliament ahead of his mandate expiring in March 2013.

“He has more than a year left of the mandate. So Najib can take his time as he wants to ensure a resounding victory,” the source said.

There has been speculation that Najib would call for a general election soon as his popularity remains high and there is a positive buzz from the Kuala Lumpur High Court’s decision on Monday to acquit Anwar of a sodomy charge, the second in 14 years.

Najib has also been seeking to ease the race preferential policies introduced by his father and second prime minister, Tun Abdul Razak Hussein, decades ago, but has been criticised for the delay in carrying out his reforms.