Anwar set to return to Parliament, leads with bigger majority

PKR leader Anwar Ibrahim is well on his way to premiership. (Bernama pic)

PORT DICKSON: Anwar Ibrahim is set to return to Parliament as he leads comfortably against six others who are challenging him in the Port Dickson by-election.

Unofficial counts have put the PKR leader – who must win if Pakatan Harapan were to fulfil its promise to appoint him as prime minister – far ahead of others in an election which saw less than 60% of the 75,770 voters turning out to cast their ballots at 32 polling centres in the constituency.

Anwar is facing six other candidates, with the closest rival being Mohd Nazari Mokhtar of PAS. Five other independent candidates include former Negeri Sembilan menteri besar Isa Abdul Samad, Anwar’s former personal aide Mohd Saiful Bukhari Azlan; Stevie Chan Ken Leong; Kan Chee Yuen and Lau Seck Yan.

In a statement accepting his defeat, independent candidate Stevie Chan congratulated Anwar but said he was standing by his view that the by-election in Port Dickson was “unethical, unnecessary and untimely”.

“I hope that he (Anwar) upholds the principles of the Harapan agenda, and safeguard our hope in Malaysia Baharu,” said Chan.

In the May general election, former Navy officer Danyal Balagopal Abdullah won the seat with a majority of 17,710 votes, defeating Barisan Nasional’s VS Mogan and PAS’ Mahfuz Roslan. Danyal gave up the seat, attracting intense criticism on social media as well as civil society activists who accused him of betraying those who voted him in.

Anwar is expected to have no difficulty surpassing the majority won by Danyal despite the poor voter turnout, which according to the Election Commission stood at 58.3% when polling closed at 5.30pm.

As at 7.30pm, Anwar gained some 70% of the total votes cast.

Hundreds of PH and PKR supporters are currently gathered at the Port Dickson Municipal Council building, where the official results will be announced.

It is the second time Anwar is making a political comeback. In 2008, he contested in Permatang Pauh, Penang, returning to Parliament to become the opposition leader following unprecedented gains by the opposition in the March general election.

Permatang Pauh was Anwar’s seat for almost two decades before his dramatic sacking in 1998 by then prime minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad, who had named Anwar his anointed successor, before both fell out over policy differences and allegations of sexual immorality.

Anwar, 70, made peace with Mahathir in 2016. Both leaders had since then agreed to work together under the PH coalition, which overthrew BN in the historic May polls.

Following the change of government, Anwar, who had been serving a jail sentence for his sodomy conviction, was granted a royal pardon and released, lifting a ban imposed on him from active politics.