Anwar's daughter steps into political wilderness

KUALA LUMPUR Thu Feb 28, 2008 3:01am EST

Malaysia's opposition National Justice Party candidate Nurul Izzah Anwar smiles as she campaigns for the upcoming elections in Kuala Lumpur February 27, 2008. Malaysia will go to the polls on March 8. REUTERS/Bazuki Muhammad

Malaysia's opposition National Justice Party candidate Nurul Izzah Anwar smiles as she campaigns for the upcoming elections in Kuala Lumpur February 27, 2008. Malaysia will go to the polls on March 8.

Credit: Reuters/Bazuki Muhammad

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KUALA LUMPUR (Reuters) - The eldest daughter of Malaysia's opposition leader is making her electoral debut in next month's election that could make or break her family's political future.

Nurul Izzah Anwar, a 27-year-old who has just given birth, has joined her mother to fight the government in the March 8 poll many say could be Anwar Ibrahim's last hurrah if his party loses badly.

Anwar, once regarded as a future prime minister, is now hemmed in by his opponents and is battling to stay relevant to voters. His Keadilan political party is officially headed by his wife, who is its only member of parliament.

U.S.-educated Nurul, trying to make her own mark in politics, was quick to deny suggestions that she was contesting as a hedge for her 60-year-old father.

"I'm offering myself for the people of Lembah Pantai," she said, referring to the economically mixed urban constituency in the heart of Kuala Lumpur where she is contesting.

"If they are voting, they are voting for me. I want to win this election for myself and for my party," she told Reuters.

Anwar is barred from standing as a candidate until this April because of the conviction for corruption, a charge he said had been contrived to wrongly imprison him for six years until his release in 2004.

He hopes to eventually return to parliament via a by-election. One way is to take over Nurul's seat, if she wins.

Her opponent in the race is Women's Minister Shahrizat Abdul Jalil, a favorite to win the seat.

RACE-BASED POLITICS

Some ordinary voters think Nurul, still breast-feeding her baby, could make it in politics.

"She is promising. She is well-educated and religious. She can win if the election is held fairly," said Faridah Mat Jais, a 44-year-old woman selling snacks under a highway bridge.

Others have some reservations. "I think the prospect is not too bright because she is contesting against a formidable woman figure," said political analyst Shamsul Amri Baharuddin.

In the interview, Nurul said the multiracial Keadilan would fight to end Malaysia's deep-rooted racial politics.

"If we are going toward this (racial) road, we are doomed," she said. "We need a future devoid of racial politics, that's why it's very important for young Malaysians -- Indians, Chinese, Malays -- to stand up and work together."

Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi's multiracial coalition is widely tipped to retain power but with a reduced majority.

The coalition comprises 14 parties, each representing an ethnic group. Malays account for just over half of the population, with Chinese and Indians forming sizeable minorities.

(Editing by Bill Tarrant)

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