Sunday, August 17, 2008

Malaysia's Anwar bids for seat, battle lines drawn

PERMATANG PAUH, Malaysia (Reuters) - Malaysia's de facto opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim, facing a sodomy charge and a fractious alliance, officially kicked off his drive to seize power when he filed papers on Saturday to run for parliament.

Seeking a return to parliament for the first time in a decade, Anwar will run in a by-election on August 26 in a traditional opposition stronghold in northern Penang state.

Anwar, the former deputy premier, hopes it will be the first step towards ousting the ruling coalition which has led Malaysia since independence from Britain in 1957.

Police blanketed the normally sleepy rural enclave of Permatang Pauh in tight security as he lodged his papers to run against the ruling Barisan Nasional coalition's Arif Shah, a 52-year-old political novice, and another independent candidate.

Political analysts expect Anwar to win the by-election but say his drive to bring down Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi's coalition by September 16 could run aground as he fights a charge that he had sex with a 23-year-old male aide.

Anwar, 61, who has been imprisoned before on sodomy and corruption charges and who was barred from office until April this year, has denied the charge.