Malaysia’s opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim aims to seize final chance 

(The Telegraph) – But some within the opposition fear that even if defeated the National Front – which has close ties to the military – may not give up power.

It would be a remarkable comeback for the 65-year-old, who has twice been imprisoned on sodomy charges, beaten while in custody and twice exonerated and who is now facing the fight of his political life.

If history were the only guide, the National Front (Barisan Nasional) would succeed in clinging on to govern for another five years. It has ruled Malaysia with an iron fist since independence from Britain in 1957.

But after unprecedented gains in the 2008 election, where the People’s Pact (Pakatan Rakyat) was victorious in five of the nation’s 12 states, Mr Anwar genuinely believes this is his moment.

An independent poll released on Friday for the first time backed up that optimism, showing the People’s Pact leading the National Front by 42 per cent to 41 per cent, with 17 per cent undecided.

Mr Anwar’s campaign, which has used online blogs and social media to circumvent the country’s lack of a free press, is based around his call for “ubah” (change) from the pro-ethnic Malay policies of the National Front.

This time round, 2.6 million new voters have registered, out of a total of 13.3 million – many of them young, hopeful, ethnically diverse and Twitter-savvy.

“This is our best chance,” Mr Anwar told The Daily Telegraph. “There has been a huge upsurge in anti-establishment feeling since 2008. It is not just among the youth, but people in rural areas too are very enthusiastic – particularly in Johor and East Malaysia. I am very optimistic we can win, there is a big surge of hope in the country.”

But some within the opposition fear that even if defeated the National Front – which has close ties to the military – may not give up power.

The People’s Pact claims that the National Front has flown more than 40,000 voters, whose credentials are suspect, from the government strongholds of Sabah and Sarawak in Borneo to the mainland, where several seats are being fiercely contested.

Mr Anwar outlined three concerns, “the fact that 15 flights a day are flying thousands of voters in to the mainland, whether the indelible ink used in postal voting is actually indelible and the fact that we have had no media coverage – not one minute of airtime on state TV.”

The office of the prime minister, Najib Razak, 59, has strongly denied “any involvement in these flights”.

Mr Anwar added: “Obviously, there is severe concern that there could be problems on election day itself, such as tampering with ballots,” though he noted that Mr Najib has promised a peaceful transition if he loses.

Mr Najib is relying on Malaysia’s consistent economic growth to carry him over the line. As an indicator, stocks fell 1.09 per cent after yesterday’s poll.

The prime minister’s promised reforms of pro-Malay policies have not materialised however, while critics state his repeal of the controversial Internal Security Act last year simply led to equally repressive laws.

In an interview with Reuters in March, Mr Najib repeatedly stressed the complexity of managing a nation whose British colonial history left it with a volatile mix of majority Malays with large minorities of ethnic Indians and economically dominant ethnic Chinese.

“The very fact that Malaysia is a success story despite the complexities in our society – why don’t people give us that credit?” Mr Najib said. 

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