Reluctant Wan Azizah in the spotlight again

Reluctant Wan Azizah in the spotlight again
Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail campaigning in Kajang.

WIFE of Malaysia's opposition chief Anwar Ibrahim.

Mother of star politician Nurul Izzah Anwar.

President of Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR).

And soon, it is likely that everyone can add one more title for Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail: Kajang assemblywoman.

The 61-year old is a candidate for the Kajang by-election, replacing her husband who has been disqualified from contesting after a sodomy conviction was upheld in court.

"Dr Wan Azizah is once again forced to be the reluctant saviour - the loyal wife who has to dig deep into her inner energy to be many things all at once," said Mr Yang Razali Kassim, senior fellow with the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies.

"She is the alter ego of her husband, mother to her children, and the alternate glue that binds the disparate opposition parties together."

Campaigning started last Tuesday following nomination. Voting is on March 23.

Dr Wan Azizah - Kak Wan, or Elder Sister Wan to her followers - will face off against Madam Chew Mei Fun, 50, vice-president of the Malaysian Chinese Association.

Often the reluctant politician, the former eye surgeon stepped up for the Selangor state seat to help douse bitter infighting in PKR. The job that was supposed to be carried out by Anwar has now fallen onto her lap.

The fighting between PKR deputy president Azmin Ali, who is also the party's Selangor chief, and Selangor Menteri Besar Abdul Khalid Ibrahim has marred the reputation of the opposition Pakatan Rakyat (PR) alliance.

And the by-election itself, dubbed the Kajang Move by the alliance, has caused disunity within PR. Leaders of its ally in Selangor, Parti Islam SeMalaysia (PAS), are not convinced that it was necessary, and are against the plan to remove Tan Sri Khalid as Menteri Besar of the country's richest state.

Anwar was supposed to take over from Mr Khalid to tamp down the fight with Mr Azmin but, with his disqualification, analysts are asking whether he would now nudge Dr Wan Azizah to take over the Menteri Besar's post.

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