Malaysian opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim said his Pakatan Harapan’s alliance is confident of securing a simple majority even in the face of a multi-cornered fight in this month’s general election.
“I have been on the ground, and yes it is a tight race,” Anwar, 75, told Bloomberg Television’s Haslinda Amin in an interview Monday. “But we can move further into the rural heartland to secure a simple majority.”
Malaysia’s general election on Nov. 19 will see multi-cornered fights for almost all the 222 parliamentary seats, raising the possibility that fresh political alliances would be needed to form a new government. The national vote will determine if the ruling Barisan Nasional coalition succeeds in bolstering its position or whether Pakatan Harapan can wrest another victory that will see Anwar realize a long-cherished dream of leading the country.
PH will focus on stamping out corruption and bolstering the nation’s smaller sized firms instead of focusing on just the conglomerates, as part of the alliance’s pledge to slash living costs and improve the economy, Anwar said. Small businesses account for 98% of activity but contribute only 30% to the economy, he said, adding that his coalition aims to lift this proportion.
“We have to shift the focus from enriching the few through corrupt deals or benefiting the conglomerates — the top 2% — to enhancing opportunities for SMEs,” Anwar said.
PH’s policies would be a “systemic shift” from earlier measures based on race and religion taken up bv pro-Malay political alliances like Perikatan Nasional and UMNO, which dominates the BN coalition, he added.
A survey by the Merdeka Center showed on Friday that voting inclination toward BN fell to 24% in October from 27% in September. Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob’s approval rating dropped after he called snap elections last month, with voters signaling they want the government to address the rising cost of living worsened by a falling currency.
The survey also showed that 26% of voters backed Anwar’s grouping followed by BN at 24% and 13% for PN led by former premier Muhyiddin Yassin. However, the trend may not hold until polling day as 31% of the 1,209 respondents said they had no preference or were still undecided.
Anwar said he’s campaigning hard on the corruption issue by making a “firm commitment” to Malaysians that graft among the country’s most powerful figures won’t be tolerated.
Anwar had a storied political career in which he was poised to become prime minister on more than one occasion. He was seen as former premier Mahathir Mohamad’s successor in the 1990s before he was fired in the wake of the Asian Financial Crisis, after which he spent six years in prison on convictions for abuse of power and sodomy.
He then joined hands with Mahathir to win the 2018 election, only to see his old rival fail to honor a promise to step aside. Tensions between the two eventually led to the government unraveling.
Mahathir last month said he was prepared to meet with Anwar over the possibility of working together again and repeating their 2018 success. Anwar dismissed the overture on Monday.
“He represents a purely Malay party, which believes that only Malays can lead this country. This is a major policy difference,” said Anwar. “He continues to condone selective corruption. We cannot be seen under these circumstances to allow a system that enriches family and cronies.” – BLOOMBERG