Malaysia: Opposition Parties Launch New Coalition

Hata Wahari

2015-09-22
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150922-MY-azizah-1000 Malaysian opposition MP Wan Azizah Wan Ismail poses for pictures as she arrives at a polling station for a by-election in Permatang Pauh, Penang state, March 7, 2015.
AFP

Malaysian opposition parties on Tuesday announced the formation of a new alliance to challenge Prime Minister Najib Razak in polls due by early 2018.

Leaders of the Pakatan Harapan (Alliance of Hope) coalition also declared Anwar Ibrahim, the opposition’s jailed ex-leader, as their prime ministerial pick for the next general election. Anwar, 68, is in prison on a sodomy charge.

The three-party coalition – Anwar’s People’s Justice Party (PKR), the Democratic Action Party (DAP) and the newly formed National Trust Party (PAN) – hopes to unseat Najib’s United Malays National Organization (UMNO), which leads the ruling Barisan Nasional bloc. UMNO has ruled since 1957 in Malaysia, where politics can be racially charged and parties coalesce along racial lines.

“This is for the people,” opposition leader and MP Wan Azizah Wan Ismail – Anwar’s wife – told journalists in Subang Jaya, Selangor state, according to local news reports.

“The people have high hopes of seeing the opposition working together.”

The new coalition replaces the Pakatan Rakyat (People’s Pact) alliance, which fell apart in June. Both the PKR and the predominantly ethnic Chinese DAP were part of that seven-year-old coalition with the faith-based Pan-Malaysian Islamic Party (PAS).

In the 2013 general election, the opposition coalition came close to unseating Najib by winning the popular vote, but it did not win enough parliamentary seats needed to oust him.

But inter-party tensions over PAS’s efforts to implement hudud – a sharia penal code – in northern Kelantan state, where the party controls the state legislature, caused the coalition to come apart. Members of PAS who broke away have now formed the National Trust Party.

On Monday, PAS officials reiterated that their party would not be part of the new alliance.

“We cannot be with Pakatan Rakyat 2.0 due to the presence of DAP and [PAN] which we regard as having betrayed and run away from us,” PAS Vice-President Datuk Mohd Amar Nik Abdullah said, according to the state-run Bernama news agency.

The three partners in the new coalition agreed to ally with one another during a roundtable meeting in Subang Jaya on Tuesday, which was attended by 18 top leaders of opposition parties as well as some members of UMNO and PAS.

"Pakatan Harapan hopes to serve as a strong political alliance that will defend the people and accept all others political parties in facing [off against] UMNO and Barisan Nasional,” Wan Azizah said.

“We are also announcing that Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim will be our choice for prime minister if we win the next general election,” Wan Azizah added, according to Malay Mail Online.

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