Sleaze, Race Dominate Crucial By-Election

IPSnews, by Baradan Kuppusamy

PERMATANG PAUH, Penang, Aug 22 (IPS) – Sleaze and race are dominating the by-election for this constituency where opposition leader and self-proclaimed prime minister-in-waiting Anwar Ibrahim is fighting to return to parliament after a decade-long absence.

Anwar tells voters that if he elected he will be just one step away from toppling the government and replacing it with a new one that is free of racial discrimination and corruption. He proposes to do that by inducing defections from the ranks of the ruling Barisan Nasional (National Front coalition) or BN.

In response to Anwar’s challenge, the ruling coalition has unleashed money, patronage and the overwhelming control it has over mainstream media to convince the 58,000 voters in this constituency that Ibrahim is simply unfit to be anything, let alone the next prime minister.

Their main weapons in this campaign are sleaze and the manipulation of racial fears to influence the voters, 70 percent of whom are Muslim-Malays.

One matter persistently used in the campaign is the charge filed against Ibrahim on Jul. 26 that he sodomised a former aide, Saiful Bukhari Azlan. The trial starts on Sep. 13. [more]

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