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Malaysia’s small democratic leap
How a regional by-election could bring regime change
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alaysian opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim “soundly drubbed” his opponent in a parliamentary by-election Tuesday, said Jed Yoong in the Asia Sentinel, winning about 60 percent of the vote. The question now is whether he can “translate electoral success into a parliamentary majority,” thus ending 50 years of power by his former party, the United National Malays Organization (UNMO), which jailed him on now-overturned sodomy charges in 1998.

Anwar’s “remarkable political comeback” fits in well with “the national mood” of wanting change, said The Wall Street Journal in an editorial. And his margin of victory should give him “ammunition” to topple the UNMO. Voters in his Permatang Pauh district ignored the “trumped-up sodomy charges” from 1998, as well as a new “outstanding sodomy charge” and “ethnic scare tactics,” both part of the UNMO’s dirty campaign.

“The attacks have had an impact,” said Bridget Welsh in Britain’s The Guardian, “and fostered doubt among some Malaysians about Anwar’s ability to govern.” But without Anwar, there’s nothing holding together his diverse coalition of Malay, Islamic, and largely secular Chinese parties. And without his coalition taking power, Malaysians lose their best chance at “greater ethnic inclusion and cleaner government.”

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