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Opposition reiterates Anwar will stand for polls, slams "culture of fear"

Date: 19 Nov 1999
Time: 19:40:53


Opposition reiterates Anwar will stand for polls, slams "culture of fear"

KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 19 (AFP) - Malaysia's opposition alliance Friday accused Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad of spreading a "culture of fear" with his predictions supporters of jailed ex-deputy premier Abwar Ibrahim will riot after this month's election.

The alliance said it was confident of denying Mahathir's National Front coalition its two-thirds majority but refused to say exactly where it would nominate Anwar as a candidate Saturday.

"Anwar has decided to stand," said Chandra Muzaffar, vice-president of the National Justice Party founded by the jailed politician's wife Wan Azizah.

He declined to say where the party would nominate him but Wan Azizah told AFP Wednesday it would be in a Kuala Lumpur constituency.

Mahathir sacked Anwar as deputy premier and finance minister in September 1998. He was later that month expelled from the ruling party and detained.

Anwar was jailed in April for six years for abuse of official powers and is now on trial for sodomy. Supporters say that since his appeal is pending against his corruption conviction, he is eligible to contest the election even though he is in jail.

A candidate need not be present in person to file nomination papers before the November 29 election for parliament and state assembly seats.

An Election Commission spokesman said it would be up to the returning officer in the constituency to decide if Anwar could stand and officers had been given no advice on the issue.

Commission chairman Omar Mohammad Hashim in a radio interview made no reference to the Anwar issue but said officials from the attorney-general's office would be at the commission on Saturday to handle legal questions.

Anwar is the candidate for premier of the opposition alliance of the National Justice Party, the Democratic Action Party (DAP), the Parti Islam SeMalaysia (PAS) and the Malaysian People's Party (MPP).

Syed Husin Ali, MPP chairman, said the four parties had reached agreement on seat allocations and would contest all seats in peninsular Malaysia.

"We hope it will be a clean fight and not under any fear which is being promoted by the prime minister and by the media he controls," he said.

"We will not cause trouble. This is the culture of fear spread by Mahathir to win votes from the businessmen."

DAP leader Lim Kit Siang, predicting the "dirtiest" election ever, urged the premier to stop referring to the 1969 race riots.

"This is the most irresponsible act. It is the National Front's trump card to cause fear among voters," he said.

Mahathir has committed himself to retaining his coalition's two-thirds parliamentary majority and winning back the PAS-held northern state of Kelantan. But the Anwar issue has split the ethnic Malay community.

The ruling party is making the northern ethnic Malay states its priority.

PAS vice-president Mustafa Ali said the battleground of his party also was the states of Kelantan, Terengganu, Kedah and Perlis.

"We can repel the Barisan Nasional (National Front) onslaught. We are confident we can reduce the two-thirds majority. I admit it is difficult to form the next government. Denying a two-thirds majority is a victory for us."

The opposition tacitly acknowledges it cannot win the poll but says ending the two-thirds, which allows constitutional changes, would check the government's overwhelming power.

"For Mahathir a defeat in the election means him losing a simple majority or losing a two-thirds majority," said Chandra. "His notion of defeat is our notion of victory."

Wan Azizah will stand in her husband's old seat of Permatang Pauh in Penang state, against the ruling coalition's Ibrahim Saad - described by the Sun newspaper as a childhood friend of Anwar.

Mustafa said Subky Latif, former PAS information chief, will stand against Mahathir in Kedah state.

The 73-year-old premier had a 17,000 vote majority in the seat at the last election in 1995, when his alliance achieved a resounding victory nationwide.

Finance Minister Daim Zainuddin will defend his Merbok seat, it was officialy announced. Daim had said earlier that he wanted to retire.

Last changed: November 19, 1999