Kuala Lumpur | It was his fifth event of the day after two weeks of campaigning and Anwar Ibrahim was in fine form. The veteran opposition leader railed against Malaysia’s “corrupt traitors” at a rally on the outskirts of the capital, in an electorate his wife is expected to win.
The 75-year-old politician is the favourite going into Saturday’s closely fought general election, but his coalition may not win a majority. In Malaysia’s notoriously murky politics, post-vote horse-trading could yet rob him of the long-awaited top job.
“The uprising begins here, in this constituency, Bandar tun Razak. Kicking out the corrupt traitors is our first task. The public voted them out last time, but the voters were betrayed,” Anwar told the crowd.
“Once again we have a chance for change, a chance to overhaul the system, this
corrupt system,” he said in Malay, as the crowd chanted “Re-for-masi”.
The chant has been a war cry for democracy activists for more than 24 years. Back then, Anwar was finance minister and the heir apparent of Malaysia’s longest serving prime minister, Mahathir Mohamad. Instead, he was sacked, setting off a chain of events that led to Anwar’s jailing on sodomy charges, which he says were politically motivated.
He was released from prison in 2018 after joining hands with Mahathir to defeat Barisan Nasional (BN) for the first time in Malaysia’s history amid public anger at the government over the multibillion-dollar 1MDB scandal.
Mahathir became prime minister for a second time in 2018, promising to hand over power to Anwar, but the coalition collapsed in 22 months due to infighting over the transition.
This election will likely be Anwar’s last roll of the dice.
His Pakatan Harapan multi-ethnic coalition is favourite to win. , although Fitch Solutions is betting on a victory for Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob’s BN alliance.
Change in BN?
BN is dominated by the UMNO party that until 2018 had governed Malaysia in one form or another since independence in 1957. A BN victory would be a startling result given the outrage over the massive corruption that flourished under the last UMNO government.
Voters like entrepreneur Syafiq Abdullah intend to back Anwar’s coalition in the hope it brings a new start.
After last year’s crippling lockdown, the 26-year-old Malay is doing brisk business at his LGA Restaurant near Kuala Lumpur. But he faces new challenges, mainly rising inflation and a steep fall in the Malaysian ringgit against the US dollar.
“Post pandemic, prices of raw materials have escalated, and this has affected my margins,” Syafiq said.
“Initially I sold a piece of chicken at 3 ringgit, but due to input cost pressures I had to increase its price to 5 and this has not gone down well with some customers.”
Price pressures and the wider economy, along with political stability are seen as key issues at this election, given that Malaysia has had three prime ministers since the last poll in 2018 and seen the collapse of two administrations.
Malay voter Syafiq Abdullah is sick of all the political games. Mogenraj Vilavan
Six million new voters are also eligible to cast ballots for the first time at this poll after Malaysia lowered the voting age to 18. Although their sentiments are hard to read, they will have a huge say on who wins government.
“Young Malaysians have had enough of the political games. It’s time for politicians to put the nation’s interest first. Narrow political schisms must go and the social and economic well-being of all Malaysians must be prioritised,” said Syafiq.
“I am hopeful that Malaysia would come out better after GE15 as there will be a cleansing of all the corrupt leaders,” he said, referring to the election.
Article published here courtesy of AFR