Malaysian opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim said Thursday he was optimistic that his alliance can achieve a simple majority in general elections expected to be held next month, despite the odds stacked against them.
Riding on a wave of anger over government corruption, Anwar's three-party Hope Alliance won a stunning victory in 2018 polls with the help of former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad. On his second run of premiership, Mahathir became the world's oldest at 92, but their government collapsed less than two years later due to infighting.
The United Malays National Organization, which has led Malaysia since its independence from Britain in 1957 until its defeat in 2018, has since returned to power as part of a Malay-dominant coalition.
Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob, a UMNO man, dissolved Parliament on Monday for early polls despite major floods expected next month due to the year-end monsoon season. UMNO has been feuding with its allies in the government and believes it can win big on its own after victories in several recent by-elections.
Anwar said UMNO's victory in the by-elections were mainly due to a low turnout of opposition voters, who were disillusioned by political bickering and his alliance's collapse.
“I remain very optimistic,” he told a news conference, because public awareness of government corruption and its failure to bolster the economy and improve livelihoods is high. “We are confident. We must work towards achieving a simple majority.”
Anwar, once a high-flyer in UMNO, was in jail during the 2018 polls for sodomy charges he said were politically motivated. Anwar, 75, was pardoned after his alliance won the polls and was due to take over from Mahathir before their government collapsed.
Anwar admitted the former government under Mahathir “did fail in some major core issues." He has said previously that Mahathir, who has since formed a Malay party on his own, was not fully committed to reforms.
“I am not here to represent the former administration. We are looking at the future. From what I observe from my visits to the four, five states in the last few weeks, there is clearly a marked change (in support) and that momentum (for change) has begun," Anwar said.
His camp is open to work with other opposition parties — including Mahathir's — if they are committed to reforms, he added.
Anwar's alliance, which has 90 out of 222 seats in the just-dissolved Parliament, is the main contender. But analysts said it will need to forge cooperation with other smaller opposition parties to ensure votes are not split.
The Election Commission will meet Oct. 20 to set a date for the vote, which must be held within 60 days after Parliament is dissolved.