Opponents believe that Zahid can then drop the charges against him and Najib can go free on a royal pardon. They are also critical of the poll being held amid the threat of flooding to stunt campaigns and voter turnout.
Against this background, Anwar is calling for a broad reform of a system riddled with corruption and in which ethnic divisions have been fueled by Malaysian identity politics.
“For me it’s about saving the country, changing the political landscape of this country,” he said.
“You cannot be naive to assume that it will be easy to fight a system of systemic corruption that is so entrenched. But I’m really encouraged to see that people are willing to listen and in many cases they are really excited and passionate about these issues.”
While Anwar and his coalition enjoy strong support from the urban middle class and from Malaysia’s Chinese and Indian ethnic minorities, he admits he faces a challenge to infiltrate the rural Malaysian interior.
Nearly 70 percent of the population is Malay, most of it Muslim, and, unlike in 2018, the opposition is split, with ousted Prime Ministers Muhyiddin Yassin and Mahathir, aged 97, facing rival groups. Surveys suggest the non-year-old is only a bit of a player this time around.
In an effort to boost Harapan’s chances, Anwar has given up his stronghold in Port Dickson, south of Kuala Lumpur, to compete for a seat beneath the limestone peaks of Ipoh in northwestern Perak state, a key election battleground. .
It’s a risky move that could end his career, but given the fractured state of Malaysian politics, with UNMO’s support not what it once was, a significant gain there could be vital.
“This is a really unpredictable situation,” said Dr Amrita Malhi of the Flinders and the Australian National Universities. “There are more candidates than ever before, more independents, more voters, new dynamics within and between the various competing parties and coalitions, and less coherence in policy choices.”
Since none of the three main coalitions appear to be able to secure the 112 seats needed for an outright majority on their own, it may be necessary to form a government post-election, and there has even been talk of Anwar and Harapan entering the country. could come. an alliance with Barisan Nasional.
Unsurprisingly, it’s a compromise he wants to avoid.
“Of course people realistically say I should be open to the idea. In democracies, [that’s what] coalition governments are about,” he said.
“But I say here that it is more complicated, because how do you work with a racist party? How do you work with a party that openly promotes racist bigotry?
“So my appeal to voters is, ‘Give us a chance to decide on your behalf, instead of these groups issuing an ultimatum.’ ”
Re-teaming with Mahathir, who has offered to rejoin Anwar, is also an undesirable outcome.
Anwar said he had been polite not to rule out the possibility, but told the Herald and The age, “This man lived up to his obligations too often.”
As he travels the country, with his team handing out umbrellas in Harapan red in addition to the usual T-shirts, he makes it clear what exactly is at stake.
“Malaysia runs the risk of being seen as a fragmented, corrupt, petty and even racist country, while not being the target of global embarrassment,” he wrote in a new book called SCRIPT – For a better Malaysia.
But while he is 22 years younger than Mahathir, who became prime minister for the second time at the age of 92, time may be running out for Anwar to communicate the changes he seeks in Malaysia.
“This is Anwar’s last chance for several reasons,” said University of Tasmania professor James Chin.
“Of course he can claim that Mahathir can become prime minister in his 90s, why can’t he? But this is his third serious attempt to become prime minister, so most people won’t give him any more chances.
“Another reason is that he has a fairly popular and competent deputy sheriff, Rafizi Ramli, so if he can’t come this time, Rafizi will get up and push him out.”
However, Malhi warns not to count Anwar.
“After all, there’s a 97-year-old running and candidates are running lawsuits against those whose status is unresolved,” she said. “Their careers are not over yet, so writing Anwar probably wouldn’t be a good idea either.”
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