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Date: 21 Nov 1999
Anwar's wife kicks off campaign in hypermarket
KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 21 (AFP) - The wife of Malaysia's jailed ex-deputy premier Anwar Ibrahim, fresh from a sombre meeting with her husband at his brother's funeral, kicked off her election campaign Sunday with a meet-the-people session in a busy suburban hypermarket.
Wan Azizah Wan Ismail, a mother of six and political novice who founded her National Justice Party (Keadilan) after her husband was jailed, shook hands with curious shoppers and introduced her parliamentary and state assembly candidates in the November 29 polls.
Wan Azizah had met her husband briefly Sunday morning at the funeral of Anwar's brother Mohamad Rani Ibrahim and visited him in prison later.
Authorities, in what she called an "11th hour" decision, allowed him to leave jail to attend the service. The burial had to be postponed till he arrived.
Wan Azizah, describing her husband as "sad and upset," said she did not know what prompted the change of heart.
The opposition Alternative Front alliance, whose candidate for premier is Anwar, had earlier attacked authorities over the case, saying they refused to let Anwar visit his brother before he died Saturday of lung cancer at age 62.
Anwar on Saturday sprung a surprise on his party by deciding not to have nomination papers submitted to contest from behind bars for a parliamentary seat.
He feared the National Justice Party risked losing a possible seat should his nomination be rejected, according to party officials.
Asked if his decision was a blow to the opposition, Wan Azizah told AFP: "Of course not. He is still the symbol for which all this started. He is still the leader."
Anwar, sacked by Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad and detained in September 1998, was jailed for six years in April for abusing his power to cover up allegations of sexual misconduct.
He is on trial for sodomy but says he is the victim of a top-level conspiracy.
Shoppers in the Giant hypermarket in Subang were taken by surprise when they spotted Wan Azizah and some 50 supporters.
"Look, it's Anwar's wife," an excited Chinese man pointed out to his wife.
Kamarulzaman Ibrahim, 32, has only kind words for her.
"This is the first time I have seen her face-to-face. She shook hands with me and didn't even mind my messy kid," he said, referring to his chocolate-smeared two-year-old.
Kamarulzaman said he voted for the ruling National Front in the past but would vote for the opposition this time because "I want to see some changes."
Mohamad Yusof Mat said he would also opt for the opposition because the "National Front now is different from the National Front before."
While most Malays were relatively forthright giving their political views, ethnic Chinese tended to be more reticent and indecisive.
A housewife, who identified herself as Oh, a Chinese surname, said the visit made her see a personal side of Wan Azizah but she had not made up her mind who to vote for.
"I will vote for whoever who can speak on our behalf," said another Chinese woman, complaining of rising food prices. "I have not decided yet."