AP Interview: Malaysia's Anwar says can win polls

AP News
Posted: Apr 30, 2013 3:47 AM
AP Interview: Malaysia's Anwar says can win polls

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AP) — Malaysian opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim said Tuesday that he believes his three-party alliance can win this weekend's national polls and topple a coalition that has ruled for nearly 56 years.

Sunday's general elections will pit Prime Minister Najib Razak's National Front coalition against Anwar's People's Alliance, which has pledged to tackle what it considers deep-rooted problems like corruption and racial discrimination.

Najib has repeatedly voiced confidence that his coalition will win and potentially regain a two-thirds parliamentary majority that it lost in 2008. The National Front has governed since independence from Britain in 1957, but its grip on power has weakened in recent years amid complaints about a lack of government transparency and accountability.

Anwar told The Associated Press on Tuesday that his alliance believes it can secure a "comfortable majority," partly because of rising support among younger voters who want to see political change.

"God-willing, we will succeed," Anwar said in an interview at an opposition office in a Kuala Lumpur suburb. "People have enough of this semi-authoritarian rule, of complete (government) control of the media, of strong arrogance, of power and endemic corruption."

Anwar nevertheless reiterated the opposition's concerns that the National Front would resort to electoral fraud to retain power.

"We have to garner larger support and get everyone out to vote so this attempt at fraud will not alter the result," Anwar said.

The National Front has denied accusations that it plans to tamper with votes. It has sought to bolster its popularity in recent months by providing cash handouts to low-income households and offering other financial incentives.

About 13.3 million Malaysians are eligible to cast ballots to fill 222 parliamentary seats and elect lawmakers for 12 state legislatures.

Anwar, a former deputy prime minister who was fired in 1998 and jailed on sodomy charges that he claims were fabricated by his political enemies, said the opposition would ensure a peaceful transition of power if it wins the elections.

"I have said no malice, no witch hunt," he added. "Our preoccupation is to govern, govern justly."

The opposition's goals include introducing policies that help Malaysians regardless of race and political affiliation, Anwar said. The National Front has been accused of favoring the well-connected elite among Malaysia's ethnic Malay Muslim majority and discriminating against ethnic Chinese, Indians and other minorities in policies involving education, housing, jobs, business contracts and freedom of religion.

"We want a policy that we can share and give a sense of confidence to all," Anwar said. "More than half a century after independence, we don't want poor Malays to be marginalized or Chinese to feel discriminated and Indians ignored."

Anwar reiterated that if his alliance loses, he will withdraw from active politics and focus on a teaching career, adding that he was not indispensable and that the opposition has many other capable leaders.


Associated Press writer Sean Yoong contributed to this report.