No UMNO, therefore no chance to be the next Prime Minister?
Feb. 6 (Bloomberg) -- Anwar Ibrahim, a former Malaysian deputy premier planning a return to politics, ruled out rejoining the party he was once poised to lead, even as some analysts say that's his only viable route to power.
Anwar, the heir to former premier Mahathir Mohamad until the 1997 Asian financial crisis, said he plans to challenge the ruling United Malays National Organization rather than join the party from which he was ousted the following year.
``I am committed to a reform agenda, UMNO is not,'' he said in an interview from Bangkok today. ``Why does one insist that I should rejoin UMNO purely for political expediency.''
Malaysia's Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, who led a coalition of parties to victory in 2004, must call an election by early 2009. Anwar, who turns 60 this year, has insufficient public support to mount a challenge, according to political analyst Mohamed Mustafa Ishak.
``Deep down in his heart, he knows full well that given the situation of the opposition, they are not at all ready to give a formidable fight,'' said Ishak, a professor of politics at Universiti Utara Malaysia in the northern state of Kedah.
Anwar said he'll stand for a seat with his People's Justice Party, as part of what he called a ``coalition of opposition.''
Anwar, who was finance minister between 1991 and 1998, is an adviser to the People's Justice Party. It is currently led by his wife and holds the seat of Permatang Pauh in Penang, western Malaysia.
Former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad recruited Anwar for UMNO in 1982 and groomed him to take over until the Asian financial crisis. Anwar, who called for reform then, was dismissed by his boss and imprisoned for almost six years on corruption and sodomy charges.
Malaysia's Federal Court, the highest court of appeal, quashed the sodomy conviction in 2004, although it upheld the corruption charge, which means Anwar cannot run for public office until 2008. Anwar has called the corruption and sodomy charges a conspiracy to destroy his political career.
Anwar, who described his relations with Abdullah as ``cordial,'' declined to say whether his goal is to become Malaysia's prime minister.
``Whether we are going to make it, or win or not, whether we are going to contest, or anyone to be chosen as an alternative prime minister, that is not the issue at hand for the present,'' he said in the interview.
Some analysts aren't convinced. Anwar's return may yet see him stand for his wife's seat at the next election and switch to UMNO during the following five-year parliament, said Terence Chong, a fellow at the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies in Singapore.
``He'll try and find his way back to UMNO,'' Chong said. ``If you're an Anwar supporter within UMNO, you're going to hold your cards close to your chest.''
tags : tun mahathir mohamad malaysia pm abdullah badawi umno anwar ibrahim