Malaysiakini: Anwar: We can deny BN two-thirds majority
Posted February 20, 2008on:
|Anwar: We can deny BN two-thirds majority|
|Beh Lih Yi | Feb 20, 08 5:32pm|
|For 50 years since Independence, opposition parties have been unable to cobble together enough seats to break the domination of Parliament, first by the Alliance and then its successor Barisan Nasional (BN).
However, PKR de facto leader Anwar Ibrahim is confident of a massive change come the general election on March 8.
“We will deny the (BN a) two-thirds majority. I am very positive about this, notwithstanding all the fraudulent processes, cheating, ‘phantom’ voters, 120-year-old men and women going to vote or people springing up from the graves.
“With all that, we still can press for more than one-third of the seats,” he told Malaysiakini and Singapore’s Channel News Asia in a 40-minute interview at his Petaling Jaya office yesterday.
In order to do that, the three main opposition parties – PAS, DAP and PKR – will have to win at least 75 of the 222 parliamentary seats being contested in this election.
In their best performance in recent years, the 1999 general election, they jointly took 42 of the 192 parliamentary seats then, or about one-fourth of the total.
The 1999 elections were called at the height of the reformasi campaign, which erupted after Anwar’s unceremonious sacking from all his posts in the government and Umno.
Of the 75 seats the opposition now aims to capture, Anwar is confident that PKR can deliver 25-30 parliamentary seats. It currently holds just the seat of Permatang Pauh in Penang.
To do so, the party will have to bank on an anticipated swing of Chinese and Indians votes to the opposition.
“PKR’s chances, of course, (are) better. If we can sustain the Malay ground mainly in the suburban areas – and most of our seats are multiracial (in voter profile) – I am optimistic we can wrest 25-30 parliamentary seats,” Anwar said.
Justifying his optimism, Anwar said that – unlike in 1999 – grouses among voters are more widespread and not confined to a particular community.
“(The years) 1998, 1999 (were a) sort of Malay drama. Now we can sustain that enthusiasm and support among the Malays, increase the votes among Chinese as seen in the last few years, and now from the Indians – it is going to be a major breakthrough, a defining moment,” he argued.
Recent opinion surveys among voters have consistently revealed discontent among the Chinese due to a series of price hikes, the sliding economic performance and rising crime-rate.
Indians have taken to the streets in unprecedented mass protests to highlight their sense of marginalisation.
Anwar said he also believes the opposition can capture the northern state of Penang, seen as the fiercest battleground of the upcoming polls.
Last month, PKR overcame hurdles to seal an electoral pact with the DAP in the state, agreeing on an one-to-one fight with BN.
Anwar cited the “sluggish” economy in Penang as a factor in the opposition’s favour.
“In the 1980s, Penang was the premier industrial centre (but) it has lost a lot of ground due to issues of governance and policies (of) the federal government. The economy is more sluggish now, (with) a lot of retrenchments, price hikes and grievances,” he said.
“I am encouraged by (support from) the Malays, Chinese and Indians. Indian support is very pronounced now, more than ever, we have not seen this wave since the first election in 1955. The Chinese in Penang have always been more critical (of the government of the day).”
A political analyst has predicted that the BN could lose an additional seven to 10 state seats and one to two parliamentary seats in Penang, if there is a swing of 4%, 8% and 3% respectively among Malay, Chinese and Indian voters.
BN currently holds 38 of the 40 state seats and 8 of the 13 parliamentary seats in Penang.
On PKR’s chances of retaining Permatang Pauh, Anwar expressed worry. He claimed that the party has not been able to trace thousands of voters whose addresses are incomplete.
The seat is held by Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail, who is Anwar’s wife and PKR president. She retained the seat in the 2004 election with a slim majority of 590 votes.
The upcoming general election will also provide Anwar the first opportunity to campaign on an opposition platform.
After his sacking from Umno, he served a six-year jail sentence for corrupt practice. Under election laws, he was barred from active politics for five years up to April 15 this year.
Asked to comment, he quipped: “You can see me enjoying myself very much. Yes, I was campaigning for BN and Umno previously, but there were a lot of limits – it was not open and frank. I’m happy I will be able to (be frank) now.”