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Web-only Exclusives
November 30, 2000

From Our Correspondent: Hirohito and the War
A conversation with biographer Herbert Bix

From Our Correspondent: A Rough Road Ahead
Bad news for the Philippines - and some others

From Our Correspondent: Making Enemies
Indonesia needs friends. So why is it picking fights?

Asiaweek Time Asia Now Asiaweek story

OCTOBER 22, 1999 VOL. 25 NO. 42

A New Precedent
Can (and will) Anwar contest the upcoming elections?
By SANGWON SUH and SANTHA OORJITHAM Kuala Lumpur

    ALSO IN ASIAWEEK
Special Report: People's Will?
Coalitions, caucuses, even a coup - democracy in Asia is getting more complicated and messy. Are the people's demands still getting through?

Pakistan: Here We Go Again After grabbing power for the fifth time in 52 years, Pakistan's generals may put in place a civilian government sooner rather than later

Timeline The ups and downs of Pakistan's recent history

Indonesia Win or lose, B.J. Habibie stands in the shadows

Malaysia Speculation continues over the election date

Precedent Can Anwar run for Parliament from Prison?

India Will the new government survive?

Into Thin Air How to sell a candidate

Vajpayee The Indian PM remains beholden to his Hindu nationalist benefactors. Yet increasingly he is being his own man

Viewpoint India elected an old PM with new friends

Can Anwar run in the upcoming elections? The answer differs depending on whom you ask. In April, Anwar was convicted of corruption and sentenced to six years' imprisonment. He is currently appealing the conviction; if the appeal is rejected in both the Court of Appeal and the Federal Court, he can petition to the king for a pardon. No one disagrees that Anwar can remain an MP until he has exhausted the appeals process. What is disputed is whether the same applies to becoming an MP.

The relevant provision in the Federal Constitution is Article 48(5), which states that for the purpose of "nomination, election or appointment" to Parliament, one is disqualified immediately upon conviction, sentencing and not receiving a free pardon. Anwar's defenders interpret this to mean disqualification takes place after the appeal fails. Barisan officials say the disqualification becomes effective immediately after the initial conviction and sentencing.

"Anwar is clearly not qualified," says M. Kayveas, president of the People's Progressive Party of Malaysia (a component of Barisan) and a member of UMNO's panel of lawyers. Law professor and former judge Harun Hashim disagrees: "If the appeal is pending, Anwar can still stand."

All parties agree on one thing, though: Should Anwar decide to contest the polls, it would establish a new precedent. "It would be unprecedented for someone who has been sentenced to contest," says Kayveas. Anwar's lawyer Karpal Singh notes: "It could be a test case."

If Anwar runs, which constituency would he choose? Probably not his current home base Permatang Pauh, since his wife will likely be contesting it. Many of his supporters want him to run in Kubang Pasu, Mahathir's own constituency. But this is also not likely, since the PM will no doubt pour all of Barisan's formidable resources into getting himself re-elected. According to sources close to Anwar, one of the seats being considered is Merbok in Kedah state - currently held by Anwar's arch-rival, Finance Minister Daim Zainuddin.

Why should Anwar run when, even if elected, he will be sitting in jail rather than in Parliament? The answer is that it would galvanize the opposition and provide a morale boost. It would certainly add more sparks to an election that is already looking to be contentious.

This edition's table of contents | Asiaweek home

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