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Feb 26, 2008

Malaysia PM Coalition May Lose 2/3 Majority

Malaysia PM Coalition May Lose 2/3 Majority
Anwar said voters were set to punish Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi´s administration for the rising cost of living.


Malaysia's ruling coalition could lose its crucial two-thirds majority for the first time in 40 years in next month's election due to eroding support, opposition figure Anwar Ibrahim said on Tuesday.

The last time the multiracial coalition failed to score a two-thirds majority was in 1969. A few days after the election, the country's worst race riots erupted, killing hundreds.

"We can deny Barisan Nasional a two-thirds majority," the former deputy premier told Reuters in his office in an old bungalow in a leafy suburb just outside the capital.

He said voters were set to punish Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi's administration for the rising cost of living, alleged racial discrimination and claims of judicial corruption.

A two-thirds majority is needed to change Malaysia's constitution. It is also a psychological level that Barisan, which has ruled Malaysia in various forms since independence in 1957, says is needed to ensure political stability.

The 14-party Barisan is widely expected to retain power in the March 8 election, although analysts say complaints about inflation, rising crime and racial and religious discord could cost Barisan some votes.

Anwar said his Parti Keadilan Rakyat is expected to win at least 20-25 of the country's 222 parliament seats. The party held just one parliamentary seat in the last election in 2004.

"We are safe now for 20-25 seats and we are going beyond," he said. The seats would likely come from capital Kuala Lumpur, central Selangor state and the northern states of Penang and Perak and Kedah, Anwar added.


The 60-year old Anwar was once then prime minister Mahathir Mohamad's anointed successor before he fell out of favour in 1998.

Anwar is barred from running for public office until this April because of a conviction for corruption. He was sacked by Mahathir in 1998 and jailed on what he says were fabricated charges of corruption and sodomy.

A court quashed the sodomy charges and freed Anwar from jail in September 2004, soon after he finished serving the corruption sentence.

Mahathir has branded Anwar as a "daydreamer", telling reporters last month that his political enemy would not be a major factor in the coming election.

"If he thinks he's going to be the prime minister, it's daydreaming of the worst kind," Mahathir said.

Malaysia's main opposition parties -- Keadilan, the fundamentalist Parti Islam se-Malaysia (PAS) and the mainly Chinese Democratic Action Party (DAP) -- have failed to form a strong alliance that can rival Barisan.

The parties have little in common, with PAS championing an Islamic state that punishes Muslims with stoning and amputation and DAP envisioning a secular state.

The DAP had 12 out of the total 219 seats in the last parliament, and PAS had six.

This time, the opposition needs to win at least 74 seats to deny Barisan the two-thirds majority. Analysts say the opposition was unlikely to reach the goal.

Keadilan, which projects itself as a multi-ethnic party, is regarded as the best bet to bring together DAP and PAS but its future is now in doubt after it fared poorly in 2004 polls.

Anwar dismissed the notion that Keadilan would eventually disappear, following in the footsteps of splinter parties such as Semangat 46, which tried to rival the main United Malays National Organisation (UMNO) in the early 1990s.

"The issue of rejoining UMNO is, to me, a non-issue. We are now in 2008, we can't continue to have racially based parties, racial equation dictating the politics of this country," Anwar said.

"I am committed (to Keadilan) because it is a multi-racial agenda."


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