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Date: 21 Nov 1999
Anwar's absence a challenge to party, wife says
PERMATANG PAUH, Malaysia, Nov 20 (AFP) - The decision by Malaysia's jailed ex-deputy premier Anwar Ibrahim not to try to contest forthcoming polls is a challenge to his opposition party, his wife said Saturday.
Speaking to reporters after filing her own nomination papers in Anwar's former seat of Permatang Pauh in the northern state of Penang, Wan Azizah said she had difficulties getting Anwar to sign a document.
"One of the forms, Number Five, required a Commissioner of Oaths to be present to certify his candidacy but it is diffcult to get the commissioner into jail," she told reporters.
"That's basically the reason and there were no obstacles, just difficulties," she said. "Our chance is taken away from us."
Wan Azizah, who heads the National Justice Party (Keadilan), said she regarded his absence from the November 29 polls as a "challenge" to her party.
"He should have been here today but this is a challenge that we cannot avoid and, hopefully, we will enter the new millennium with new changes."
Wearing a blue Malay dress and a green shawl, she was given a morale boost by some 6,000 supporters. On the scene were her two elder daughters -- Nurul Izzah and Nurul Nuha -- and three of Anwar's brothers.
She will stand against Deputy Transport Minister Ibrahim Saad, a candidate of the ruling National Front coalition and a former political secretary to Anwar.
Asked if support for her party was dwindling, Wan Azizah cited the large number of supporters who turned up Saturday -- nearly triple that of her opponent.
"From today's experience I feel I have a better chance than before," she said.
"I suppose given the circumstances, we would do good and our supporters and candidates will give us a chance to win."
Asked how she felt about running against Ibrahim, who was once Anwar's close ally, she said he was just another candidate. "I hope the electorate will vote for me. May the better person win."
During campaigning, Wan Azizah said she would focus on more development for the area and solving flood problems caused by poor drainage.
She quickly added: "I am not saying the former member of parliament (Anwar) neglected them, but he faced certain difficulties and restrictions then."