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Anwar To Run for Parliament Seat

November 18, 1999

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AP) _ Jailed politician Anwar Ibrahim and his wife both plan to run for Parliament seats as the chief opposition candidates in Malaysia’s upcoming general elections, a party leader said today.

The country’s Election Commission, however, was undecided on whether Anwar would be allowed to run for office while in prison. Commission spokesman Muhamad Aszahari Abdul Rahman said the matter would be determined by polling officials on Saturday when nominations are filed.

Anwar, the ousted deputy prime minister and former hand-picked successor to Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, is serving a six-year jail term for abuse of power and is standing trial for sodomy. He denies the charges against him and claims they are part of a conspiracy to stop him from challenging Mahathir’s rule.

His ouster by Mahathir in September 1998 and subsequent arrest and beating outraged his supporters, many of whom have defected from the ruling coalition to support Anwar and his wife, Azizah Ismail.

Chandra Muzaffar, vice president of the National Justice Party, which is headed by Azizah, today confirmed the two intended to run for office.

``Both are being fielded as candidates. We will announce the details later,″ Chandra said.

Marina Yusof, one of the party’s key strategists, said a final list of candidates in the Nov. 29 elections would be released Saturday.

Parties must select all candidates by Saturday, when nominations are submitted and either approved or denied by the Election Commission.

Mahathir called the elections last week, catching the opposition by surprise.

Anwar was likely to run in one of the eleven districts in the capital, Kuala Lumpur. Azizah was planning to contest from her husband’s hometown of Permatang Pauh in the northern state of Penang.

The opposition party has hesitated to field Anwar as a candidate because of his status as an inmate. Under Malaysian law, any person sentenced to at least one year imprisonment is barred from running for a legislative seat for five years from the date the sentence ends.

But Anwar’s lawyers say the law also allows an inmate to contest if appeals against the conviction are pending, as in Anwar’s case.

Anwar is considered the opposition’s candidate for prime minister, on the remote chance that the opposition coalition wins the elections. Members of the opposition, however, say the best they can hope for is to break the two-thirds majority in Parliament held by Mahathir’s 14-party National Front.

Azizah stepped in to head a political campaign against Mahathir after her husband was jailed.

The Anwar case has changed the normally placid politics in this Southeast Asian nation, which has been controlled by Mahathir’s National Front coalition since it gained independence from British rule in 1957.

Four opposition parties, including Azizah’s Justice Party, banded together to capitalize on the popular support for Anwar, who is widely respected as an Islamic scholar.

Meanwhile, another top opposition leader today called on tens of thousands of citizens who are barred from voting in the upcoming general election to campaign against the government in a show of protest.

``The 680,000 voters who cannot vote on Nov. 29 should come forward, organize themselves and campaign,″ said Lim Kit Siang, leader of the opposition in the dissolved Parliament.

Those potential voters are blocked from participating because the country’s Election Commission maintains there isn’t enough time to complete a new voter registration roll before the elections.

Update hourly