Anwar Ibrahim is a free man but barred from contesting or holding political office. That gives Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi, who took the top job last October, time to consolidate his position, initiate reforms and undo the excesses of former Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad. In addition, the court's decision keeps Mr Abdullah's political enemies occupied in a classic case of 'my enemy's enemy is my friend'. 'It is a perfect marriage of convenience,' said a veteran political analyst. 'Abdullah has won kudos across the world, brought respectability to the judiciary and has Anwar breathing down the throats of all his political enemies.' Mr Abdullah and Mr Anwar have repeatedly denied striking a deal. In fact, Mr Abdullah has been forced to deny the existence of such a deal not only to the media but also to the 32-member Supreme Council of Umno, the Cabinet and the ruling 13-party National Front Coalition. Mr Anwar's unexpected release has rattled his former opponents, who have climbed the ladders of power in Umno and in government during the six years he has been in prison. They strongly suspect a deal had been struck. Speculation of a deal is all the more intense as Mr Abdullah prepares to preside over the election and general assembly of Umno on September 23, his first since taking over. 'The talk in Umno now is only about Anwar and the likely deal ... all other matters have been overshadowed,' said a party veteran.