Anwar vows to oust govt, cut fuel price

Posted by SM Maulana
Saturday, 14 June 2008

MALAYSIAN opposition figurehead Anwar Ibrahim said on Friday he would press ahead with a campaign to topple the government and would cut fuel prices if he took power.

Mr Anwar, who says he has parliamentary backing to bring down the government, said his supporters included senior defectors from the ruling coalition. He said he also had growing support from the oil-producing areas of Sabah and Sarawak.

‘We do have the numbers but the issue is when to move on the no confidence vote… It can be weeks to months,’ he said.

‘We have adequate numbers to secure a simple majority in the house. What we need, of course, is a comfortable majority … There is a general sentiment among the general population wanting this change.’

The minor parties of Sabah and Sarawak, on the island of Borneo, ensured Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi’s Barisan Nasional coalition clung to power in a March 8 election.

But Barisan suffered the heaviest setback in its near-unbroken 50-year reign since independence. It lost its two-thirds majority in the federal parliament and lost five states to the opposition, including its industrial heartlands.

Barisan now holds a 29-seat majority in the 222-member parliament.

Sabah and Sarawak parties delivered 42 seats to Barisan but Mr Anwar said the opposition was wooing lawmakers with promises of regional oil royalties and more representation at the political centre.

Fuel prices

Mr Anwar said inflation, economic mismanagement and fuel price hikes had turned the public against Abdullah, encouraging lawmakers to defect, but he declined to give names and numbers.

‘Very soon they will appear and be known in public,’ he said.

Analysts say Mr Anwar has repeatedly made claims to have enough votes to topple the government without showing any evidence.

Protests against an increase in fuel prices have been small and scattered so far, but pressure is building within Mr Abdullah’s ranks for him to quit to restore confidence in the ruling party.

Mr Anwar, a former deputy premier, said he would continue a campaign of protests against the government even if Mr Abdullah quit to make way for his designated successor Najib Razak.

‘It is not individual. It is not about Abdullah Badawi or Najib Razak. It is about the system,’ he said.

Even before the fuel hikes, Mr Abdullah’s popularity had been falling with voters unhappy over racial and religious tensions, rising crime and failure to honour a pledge to fight corruption.

Opposition parties won 82 seats in the March election, with Mr Anwar’s Parti Keadilan Rakyat holding the biggest block of opposition seats at 31.

‘I cannot accept an oil-producing nation like Malaysia increasing petroleum prices by 46 percent in one go,’

Mr Anwar said. ‘It … reflects an utter disregard for the welfare of people. I am committed therefore to reducing the price of petroleum.’ — REUTERS

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