By Liau Y-Sing
KUALA LUMPUR (Reuters) - Malaysia's ruling coalition could lose its
crucial two-thirds majority for the first time in 40 years in next
month's election due to eroding support, opposition figure Anwar
Ibrahim said on Tuesday.
The last time the multiracial coalition failed to score a
two-thirds majority was in 1969. A few days after the election, the
country's worst race riots erupted, killing hundreds.
"We can deny Barisan Nasional a two-thirds majority," the former
deputy premier told Reuters in his office in an old bungalow in a leafy
suburb just outside the capital.
He said voters were set to punish Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad
Badawi's administration for the rising cost of living, alleged racial
discrimination and claims of judicial corruption.
A two-thirds majority is needed to change Malaysia's constitution.
It is also a psychological level that Barisan, which has ruled Malaysia
in various forms since independence in 1957, says is needed to ensure
The 14-party Barisan is widely expected to retain power in the
March 8 election, although analysts say complaints about inflation,
rising crime and racial and religious discord could cost Barisan some
Anwar said his Parti Keadilan Rakyat is expected to win at least
20-25 of the country's 222 parliament seats. The party held just one
parliamentary seat in the last election in 2004.
"We are safe now for 20-25 seats and we are going beyond," he said.
The seats would likely come from capital Kuala Lumpur, central Selangor
state and the northern states of Penang and Perak and Kedah, Anwar
The 60-year old Anwar was once then prime minister Mahathir
Mohamad's anointed successor before he fell out of favour in 1998.
Anwar is barred from running for public office until this April
because of a conviction for corruption. He was sacked by Mahathir in
1998 and jailed on what he says were fabricated charges of corruption
A court quashed the sodomy charges and freed Anwar from jail in
September 2004, soon after he finished serving the corruption sentence.
Mahathir has branded Anwar as a "daydreamer", telling reporters
last month that his political enemy would not be a major factor in the
"If he thinks he's going to be the prime minister, it's daydreaming of the worst kind," Mahathir said.
Malaysia's main opposition parties -- Keadilan, the fundamentalist
Parti Islam se-Malaysia (PAS) and the mainly Chinese Democratic Action
Party (DAP) -- have failed to form a strong alliance that can rival
The parties have little in common, with PAS championing an Islamic
state that punishes Muslims with stoning and amputation and DAP
envisioning a secular state.
The DAP had 12 out of the total 219 seats in the last parliament, and PAS had six.
This time, the opposition needs to win at least 74 seats to deny
Barisan the two-thirds majority. Analysts say the opposition was
unlikely to reach the goal.
Keadilan, which projects itself as a multi-ethnic party, is
regarded as the best bet to bring together DAP and PAS but its future
is now in doubt after it fared poorly in 2004 polls.
Anwar dismissed the notion that Keadilan would eventually
disappear, following in the footsteps of splinter parties such as
Semangat 46, which tried to rival the main United Malays National
Organisation (UMNO) in the early 1990s.
"The issue of rejoining UMNO is, to me, a non-issue. We are now in
2008, we can't continue to have racially based parties, racial equation
dictating the politics of this country," Anwar said.
"I am committed (to Keadilan) because it is a multi-racial agenda."