Malaysia’s Anwar says opposition has backup plan if he’s jailed

MALAYSIAN opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim said his People’s Alliance coalition has a contingency plan in place in the event he is found guilty of sodomy charges and imprisoned ahead of upcoming elections, Bloomberg reports.

“We have prepared the groundwork for a manifesto for Pakatan Rakyat and we are now in the final stages,” Anwar said in an interview today, using the Malay name for the opposition coalition. We have decided “on the leadership during elections or post-elections in the event I’m imprisoned.”

The country’s High Court is scheduled to announce the verdict on January 9, with Anwar facing up to 20 years in prison if convicted of sodomizing a former aide. Prime Minister Najib Razak said Dec 3 that preparations had begun for elections that he must call by June 2013.

An Anwar conviction may rob the ideologically disparate opposition of the one figure who has kept it united. The coalition is aiming to build on advances it made in 2008 elections when it held the ruling group to its narrowest victory since independence in 1957.

“There may be an immediate swing towards him and his party” if Anwar is convicted, said Ibrahim Suffian, a political analyst at Kuala Lumpur-based Merdeka Centre for Opinion Research.

“If Najib takes some months before calling an election, this opens up room for weaknesses in the opposition coalition to surface and any differences in opinion to be exploited.”

The People’s Alliance led by Anwar is comprised of his People’s Justice Party, the Pan-Malaysian Islamic Party and the Democratic Action Party. Some Pan-Malaysian members espouse the implementation of Islamic law, while the Democratic Action Party’s secretary-general is Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng, Malaysia’s only ethnic-Chinese state leader.

 

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