October 11, 2008 / 5:11 AM / 11 years ago

Malaysia's Anwar sets new Dec deadline to seize power

KUALA LUMPUR (Reuters) - Malaysian opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim has said that the country’s beleaguered Barisan Nasional government could fall by December, a newspaper reported on Saturday.

Malaysian opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim listens to a question during a news conference in Hong Kong September 26, 2008. REUTERS/Bobby Yip

Anwar has insisted he had won over enough defectors from the government to form a new administration. But an earlier self-imposed deadline of September 16 passed and his calls to recall parliament for a confidence vote were denied.

The former deputy premier’s move to set a new deadline by the Eid al-Adha festival, which falls on December 8, comes after Prime Minister Ahmad Abdullah Badawi announced this week he will not stand in a party election next year, effectively handing over to his deputy Najib Razak.

“We have built our base to go forward, if it (taking power) does not happen this week or next week, it can possibly happen before Eid al-Adha festival,” Anwar said late on Friday in comments reported by the mass-selling Berita Harian newspaper

“On the way it will be done, I can’t say. We will choose the peaceful way,” Anwar, who was touring the northeastern state of Kelantan, said.

Eid al-Adha is Islam’s most important feast at the end of the annual Haj pilgrimage. In mainly-Muslim Malaysia, the holiday coincides with the last few days parliament will be in session for the year.

Anwar has to get 30 government MPs to walk over in order to have a majority in the 222-seat parliament. At present the opposition coalition, made of Anwar’s Keadilan party, the Parti Islam Se-Malaysia and the Democratic Action party, has 82 seats.

“A momentum for a no-confidence vote could build up when parliament starts next week and this may happen during the debating of the budget or any bill for that matter,” said Ginie Lim, spokesperson for Keadilan party.

One of Malaysia’s best-known political figures, Anwar made world headlines when he was dismissed in the late 1990s by then premier Mahathir Mohamad and later imprisoned on what he says were trumped up sodomy and corruption charges.

He was in court again this week on new sodomy charges which he says is another ploy to stymie his challenge against the government that has ruled the Southeast Asian nation for more than 50 years.

Reporting by Niluksi Koswanage; Editing by Sanjeev Miglani

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