Malaysian opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim has said that his party is formulating an alternative election plan in the event he is convicted and imprisoned on sodomy charges. With a verdict for Mr Anwar's trial is due on January 9th, if found guilty, Mr Anwar could face up to 20 years in jail.
We have decided “on the leadership during elections or post-elections in the event I’m imprisoned,” Mr Anwar said in an interview on Thursday. He added that the party had anticipated this possibility for the past 3 years, the duration of his trial.
His party, the People's Alliance, is made up of a coalition of his People’s Justice Party, the Pan-Malaysian Islamic Party and the Democratic Action Party. Comprised of both pan Malaysians pushing for greater implementation of Islamic law, as well as ethnic Chinese and Indian representatives, with differing interests, some fear a leadership vacuum and fragmentation of the party if its leader is jailed.
In a one hour speech, Mr Anwar reassured supporters that the party would remain united regardless of the outcome of his trial. "Anwar in jail, Anwar out of jail... it doesn't matter. The most important (thing) is people should overthrow UMNO," he said.
Not disclosing anymore details of the plan, Mr Anwar said he would continue to play a role in politics even if in jail.
Report: Anwar Says Malaysia’s Opposition Has Election Backup Plan If He’s Jailed(Bloomburg, 5 January 2011)
Analysts have said a ruling against Mr Anwar may turn votes in his favour, but made note that the ruling government may wait to call elections to allow for time for differences in opinion in the opposition to appear. Elections in the country are due to be called before June 2013, but many anticipate an earlier date, with Prime Minister Najib Razak saying on December 3rd that election preparations had already begun.
A sodomy conviction was overturned against Mr. Anwar in 2004, allowing him to resume his political career which has for the first time threatened the ruling party's half-century hold on power.
To rally support ahead of the verdict, Mr Anwar is travelling through 7 Malaysian states before appearing at a courthouse demonstration on Monday. The government has said those planning the demonstration should meet with police, public demonstrations having been limited in a recent change in laws in the country.
Report: Malaysia's Anwar says opposition will survive jailing (AFP, 5 January 2011)