Anwar's wife steps in to fill gap as PR alliance regroups

Anwar's wife steps in to fill gap as PR alliance regroups
PKR president Datuk Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail giving her opening policy speech during the party's 10th National Congress at Stadium Melawati, Shah Alam

The three-party Pakatan Rakyat (PR) alliance, bereft of leader Anwar Ibrahim, has swiftly reorganised itself, with his family taking the lead in trying to fill the gap.

Just hours after the former deputy prime minister was taken to prison to start a five-year term on Tuesday, the PR secretariat met and decided that Anwar's wife and Parti Keadilan Rakyat president Wan Azizah Wan Ismail would be the coalition's chair - at least for tomorrow's top leadership pow-wow.

Yesterday, the six Anwar children launched a "March to Freedom" campaign to push for his release.

The drive includes spreading awareness through the media, visits to Malaysians overseas and foreign governments, as well as sending postcards to remind people of what they claim to be persecution by a judiciary that does the Najib government's bidding.

"As his children, we will take over his mantle and continue his struggle, hopes and ambition," Ms Nurul Nuha Anwar, 30, told a press conference while choking back tears at the family home.

Ms Nurul Nuha, the second of the six children, will spearhead the campaign to bring diplomatic pressure to bear on the government, highlighting human rights and civil liberties violations, including political incarceration.

PR's Leadership Council - its highest decision-making body - is meeting tomorrow to hammer out the contentious issue of who will be opposition leader in Parliament - typically seen as a prime ministerial candidate - and who will fill the vacant seat of Permatang Pauh, which Anwar and his wife have held since 1982.

Parti Islam SeMalaysia (PAS) and the Chinese-dominated Democratic Action Party (DAP) - the other two PR members - are at loggerheads over the implementation of Islamic criminal law and unlikely to accept an opposition leader from the other party.

If Datuk Seri Wan Azizah is returned as Permatang Pauh MP, however, it would allow her to also reclaim the leadership of the opposition, which she held in Anwar's stead for a few months in 2008.

This was after Anwar - still suspended from elections at the time due to a conviction for abuse of power - campaigned across the country, which eventually led the ruling Barisan Nasional to lose its two-thirds majority in Parliament for the first time.

Though PR has yet to delve into the issue of succession, its leaders have come out in unanimous support of Anwar.

PAS president Abdul Hadi Awang, who has feuded bitterly with his partners in the past year, called Tuesday's court decision to uphold Anwar's sodomy conviction a "black mark in our nation's history".

Said DAP secretary-general Lim Guan Eng: "We will wait for him to come out."

Even Anwar's accuser, Mr Saiful Bukhari Azlan, told The Star he was not happy to see Anwar jailed and that all he wanted was for "justice to take its course".

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