(daripada Majalah Asiaweek
By SANGWON SUH and SANTHA OORJITHAM Kuala Lumpur
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.
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.