Tuesday, April 15, 2008

He's Back!

KUALA LUMPUR, April 15 — De facto opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim looked every inch the prime minister-in-waiting when he calmly announced that his Pakatan Rakyat has the numbers and is ready to form the federal government.

"Now I am saying for the first time that we are ready," Anwar told reporters after a 10,000-strong rally in the historic Sultan Sulaiman Club in central Kuala Lumpur celebrating his formal return to politics. He was barred from active politics until midnight April 14 after a corruption conviction in 1999.

Since 1993 when he won the Umno deputy presidency, veteran opposition leader and former nemesis-turned-ally Lim Kit Siang had tagged Anwar as a prime-minister-in-waiting – a tag he now assumes proudly as burly guards escorted him through the club after they led a convoy of big bikes to deliver him to the club premises in Kampung Baru.

He also said the Pakatan Rakyat (People's Alliance) could appoint his wife Wan Azizah Wan Ismail – the Parti Keadilan Rakyat president and Parliamentary Opposition leader – as Prime Minister, if he had yet to get a seat in parliament. However, he said the appointment would depend on consensus.

Asked if he would run for a parliament seat, Anwar replied that he would answer that question once the MPs are sworn in on April 28. "I want to build the coalition first. My personal interest comes later."Anwar disclosed that his coalition had spoken to lawmakers from both Sarawak and Sabah who had requested for more development and also increased royalties from commodities extracted from both states.

"We will only enter if the majority is complete," he said, also implying the coalition had the necessary numbers to form the federal government.

Anwar's coalition won 82 seats in the 222-seat parliament, delivering a huge and historic blow to Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi's Barisan Nasional coalition which won 140 seats, eight short of two-third majority which the BN had always assumed as its right. The BN also lost control of four states apart from Kelantan.

Anwar, whose one-hour speech to the crowd was halted by police at 10.35pm, also lashed out at former prime minister Mahathir Mohamad - his one-time-mentor-turned-nemesis.

"I've refrained for a long time from responding to Dr Mahathir's vicious and venomous personal attacks. I consider his views obsolete. Unfortunately, he's getting crazier, he's never consistent and has a particular personal agenda to promote Najib and free him from all scandals."