World News

Malaysia bookies say Anwar a safe bet in local poll

KUALA LUMPUR (Reuters) - Illegal bookies in Malaysia reckon de facto opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim can’t lose an important by-election next Tuesday and that the real money will be on how many votes he wins by.

Malaysia's de facto opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim (C) and his party leaders wave to supporters as they leave after submitting his nomination papers for the Permatang Pauh constituency by-election in Permatang Pauh, 370 km (230 miles) north of Kuala Lumpur, August 16, 2008. REUTERS/Bazuki Muhammad

Many Malaysians are hardened gamblers and illegal betting syndicates in Malaysia and elsewhere in Asia won notoriety around the world over attempts to fix international football matches over the past year.

Bookies in Kuala Lumpur are offering odds of 3-1 for Anwar winning with a majority of 15,000 votes in the August 26 by-election in northern Penang state, an Anwar stronghold.

Anwar hopes winning the by-election and returning to parliament after a 10-year absence will be the first steps towards ousting the ruling coalition which has led Malaysia since independence from Britain in 1957.

Bookies have posted odds of 5-1 for a majority of 20,000.

“He (Anwar) will win for sure because everybody knows the sodomy case is just a trick by the government and it’s his home ground,” said one bookie, who asked not to be identified.

“My guess is the majority will be slightly reduced because of dirty politics but some of my customers seem to be too idealistic and maybe they want some change in government since they are asking to bet on higher majorities,” he said.

Anwar, who has been jailed before for sodomy and corruption and was barred from office until April this year, is fighting a charge that he had sex with a 23-year-old male aide.

Another illegal bookie, who has collected about 2 million ringgit (319,000 pounds) worth of bets, said: “We need to factor in that the government will spend a lot of money, trying to buy over voters, and it’s a three-way fight, which is always a spoiler”.

Anwar is running against a candidate from the ruling Barisan Nasional coalition and another independent candidate.

Sodomy, even between consenting adults, is punishable by up to 20 years in prison in mainly Muslim Malaysia.

Reporting by Niluksi Koswanage; Editing by Paul Tait