Anwar returns-as the alternative

September 1, 2008

By Joceline Tan, mstar online

Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim returns to Parliament today still flushed from his victory in Permatang Pauh

For a start, he had better be prepared to be lionised by the media. He is quite used to that by now, but it is going to happen on an even more frenetic scale now that he has returned as Permatang Pauh MP.

He will also be the centre of attention inside the House.

Across the plush carpeted floor that separates the two coalitions will be familiar faces, many of whom Anwar said once used to rush to shake and even kiss his hand but who now run away when they see him.

There is no running away for them now. They will have to take him on.

Moreover, he told a ceramah crowd during the campaign in Permatang Pauh that when he enters Parliament on Aug 28, he intends to gaze directly and deeply into the Prime Minister’s eyes. All eyes will be on him when he actually does that.

“It’s going to be rather awkward for those on the Barisan Nasional bench. His presence will change the atmosphere in Parliament, things are going to be quite different,” said Batu MP Tian Chua.

Then of course there is the fact that there will be two Prime Ministers-in-waiting inside the House. Anwar and Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak’s path crossed only once over 11 days in Permatang Pauh and that was on nomination day. But now they will be sitting just several metres across from each other.

It should also be awkward for Rembau MP Khairy Jamaluddin who had declared in grand Shakespearian style that Umno had gone to Permatang Pauh to bury Anwar in the by-election.

Instead Anwar has arrived in Parliament as the new Opposition leader.

But Anwar is probably planning behave to himself. There are unlikely to be any unseemly pot shots taken at the other side, at least for the time being.

Anwar, for those who have yet to notice, has begun adopting a statesman-like demeanour.

He has discarded his fiery oratory for a more sober and mature speaking style and demeanour. He is still as witty as ever but he has scaled back on the jokes and his penchant for breaking into P. Ramlee and Elvis songs on stage.

Every single image of him on the thousands of posters, banner and billboards in Permatang Pauh portrayed him looking like a man on the way to Putrajaya. It has really sunk in for his supporters who celebrated his win on Tuesday night with chants of, “Anwar PM” and “Putrajaya.”

Wherever he went in Permatang Pauh, he was accompanied by four burly, crew-cut bodyguards in dark bush-suits and wearing conspicuous ear-pieces. The chief bodyguard wore a jacket that had “A Team” printed on it. The whole rigmarole was more amusing than impressive.

Many also noted that he looked serious, even grim, when he arrived at the Tuanku Bainun Institute to wait for the official election results. It did not help that he was wearing a baggy and rather colourful batik shirt.

Apparently, his advisers had told him to be magnanimous and to refrain from any outlandish triumphal gestures.

But form and style aside, Anwar is joining Parliament with quite impressive credentials.

The former Deputy Prime Minister won the by-election with a huge majority and against the mighty Barisan.

He retained a grip on the Chinese and Indian vote with the help of the DAP and made significant inroads into Malay ground with the help of PAS.

“But at the end of the day, it was very much about Anwar’s presence. He has their support,” said Malik Kassim, the PKR assemblyman for Batu Maung.

Perhaps the most worrying thing for Umno was how poorly the party fared among young voters. Voting stream data showed a PKR sweep of votes among those in their 20s and 30s. Umno did well mainly among the older generation.

In that sense, Anwar can lay claim to the generational shift that is taking place among the Malays.

“Logically speaking, I don’t buy the Sept 16 claim (to form the federal government). But if Barisan continues to lose ground like this, then more people are going to believe it,” said DAP strategist and Bukit Bendera MP Liew Chin Tong.

But, said Penang state exco member Phee Boon Poh, the most important message that Permatang Pauh voters sent out is that they see Anwar as an alternative.

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