Anwar's wife wins special election

Wan Azizah, of opposition People's Justice Party, beats ruling party candidate in Selangor

PUBLISHED : Monday, 24 March, 2014, 4:06am
UPDATED : Monday, 24 March, 2014, 5:15am

Wan Azizah Ismail, wife of Malaysian opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim, won a special state election, having replaced her husband in the contest after he was sentenced to jail for sodomy.

Wan Azizah defeated Chew Mei Fun from the national ruling coalition by 16,741 votes to 11,362, according to state-run news service Bernama. Voter turnout was about 72 per cent, it said.

Ahead of voting yesterday, Wan Azizah had said: "I am not concerned about the vote majority. A win is a win."

Anwar had planned to stand as the People's Justice Party candidate for the vacant state seat in opposition-controlled Selangor, until the Court of Appeal on March 7 overturned his 2012 acquittal on a sodomy charge.

Chew, from the Malaysian Chinese Association, was formerly the deputy minister for women, family and community development in Prime Minister Najib Razak's cabinet.

Wan Azizah held a parliamentary seat from 1999 to 2008 when her husband spent six years in jail following a falling-out with former premier Mahathir Mohamad. She later relinquished the seat to Anwar, who won a subsequent special election in 2008.

I am not concerned about the vote majority. A win is a win
Wan Azizah at a news conference ahead of the voting yesterday

Had Anwar secured the district in Selangor in the special election it would have opened the way for him to later seek the post of chief minister in the state, which surrounds the capital, Kuala Lumpur, and is the country's economic powerhouse.

The current chief minister, Khalid Ibrahim, who represents Anwar's alliance, has signalled he would not make way for the opposition leader. Khalid's restructuring of water assets in Selangor in agreement with Najib's government and without the coalition's prior consent has sparked infighting.

The court verdict against Anwar garnered further attention when Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 disappeared on March 8 en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing with 239 people on board.

The jet's captain, Zaharie Ahmad Shah, was an opposition supporter whose Facebook posts showed a disdain for the ruling National Front coalition that has been in power since 1957.

Anwar is free on bail pending the hearing of his appeal, which, given the usual backlog in Malaysia's courts, would normally take up to a year to be heard. But he said the judiciary might fast-track the process again. "What I hear is two months," he said last week. "So it's super-efficient."

He also said he was not afraid of a second prolonged period behind bars.

"I'm incorrigible," he said. "My wife says to me 'You're too confident outside' because it's tough for her and the children too. But you have to overcome fear."

Anwar was Mahathir's deputy in the late 1990s during the Asian financial crisis. They fell out over economic policy and, in 1998, Mahathir fired Anwar, pegged the currency and imposed capital controls. Within a month, Anwar was arrested. He spent the next six years in prison for abuse of power and sodomy, of which he was later cleared.