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Cablegate: Anwar Sworn in at Parliament

VZCZCXRO0460
PP RUEHCHI RUEHDT RUEHHM RUEHNH
DE RUEHKL #0765/01 2410943
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 280943Z AUG 08
FM AMEMBASSY KUALA LUMPUR
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 1550
INFO RUCNASE/ASEAN MEMBER COLLECTIVE
RUEHBJ/AMEMBASSY BEIJING 2489
RUEHKO/AMEMBASSY TOKYO 2564
RHHMUNA/USCINCPAC HONOLULU HI
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 KUALA LUMPUR 000765

SIPDIS

DEPT FOR EAP/MTS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 08/28/2018
TAGS: PGOV PHUM PINR KDEM MY
SUBJECT: ANWAR SWORN IN AT PARLIAMENT

REF: A. KL 759 ANWAR WINS RESOUNDING VICTORY
B. KL 753 INDICATORS ALL POINT TO ANWAR VICTORY
C. KL 743 GOM PLAYING HARDBALL

Classified By: ACTING POLITICAL SECTION CHIEF W. GARY GRAY, REASON 1.4
(B AND
D).

1. (C) Summary. Anwar Ibrahim, still savoring his landslide
by-election victory, was sworn into Parliament on August 28
after being officially confirmed as leader of the Pakatan
Rakyat (PR) opposition alliance. His first intervention was
to question the merits of the DNA identification bill which
the ruling coalition planned to pass later that day. Some
key Anwar aides seemed to be hedging on their leader,s
stated pledge to oust the Government by September 16 and
neutral observers were even more skeptical, but most agreed
that Anwar is now enjoying a surge of momentum. A suddenly
more assertive mainstream media is portraying the BN as
mired in old thinking and old methods, in contrast to the
more cutting edge tactics effectively employed by the
opposition in Permatang Pauh. End Summary.

2. (C) Parliament was the center of attention on August 28
as Anwar Ibrahim, followed by a large media entourage,
entered to be sworn in by Speaker Pandikar Amin Mulia at the
beginning of the session. The Speaker also formally
announced that the PR parties had unanimously selected Anwar
as Opposition Leader in Parliament. Star newspaper chief
editor Wong Chun Wai, (recalling a conversation with PM
Abdullah a few days before) told Poloffs that PM Abdullah
himself had overruled underlings who wanted to delay Anwar,s
entry into Parliament and ordered that the newly-elected MP
be sworn in as soon as possible. Anwar, again mobbed by
reporters upon re-emerging from the chamber, chided the BN
for spending "billions" in Permatang Pauh but failing to win
over voters with its negative race-based campaign. Having
harshly criticized the media over the past several weeks,
Anwar told the assembled journalists that he knew "your
hearts were in the right place even though you have to write
what your bosses order." In that regard, state-owned RTM
(Radio-Television Malaysia), which normally broadcasts the
first 30 minutes of every Parliament session, began its
coverage only after Anwar,s swearing in.

3. (C) The mainstream media, with the notable exception of
Malay language publications, has exhibited uncharacteristic
boldness in the wake of the by-election, with a number of
articles sharply critical of the BN,s campaign in Permatang
Pauh and expressing grudging admiration for the opposition
alliance,s operation. Star editor Wong told us he had
resisted pressure to downplay Anwar,s triumph and insisted
on reporting it in banner headlines. Such openings have
appeared in the past only to be slammed shut, and the GOM
sent a message on August 27 by ordering all 21 Internet
Service Providers (ISPs) in the country to block access to
Rajah Petra,s controversial Malaysia Today website
((www.Malaysia-Today.net). The site remains accessible,
however, through an alternate link. Raja Petra charged that
the GOM had breached its own commitment not to censor the
internet during the promotion of Malaysia,s own version of
Silicon Valley, the Multimedia Super Corridor.

4. (C) While Anwar held court outside, in the chamber
opposition MPs voiced their objections to the DNA
identification bill, which Home Affairs Minister Syed Hamid
was pushing to pass by the end of the day. Anwar himself
returned to make his first intervention, questioning the
Government,s motives for trying to rush through the bill,
widely seen as targeted at Anwar's own ongoing sodomy case
(Ref C). Opposition MPs acknowledged to us that they had no
hope of delaying the legislation and expected it to pass, but
as noted (Ref A), the bill must pass through the upper house,
not scheduled to meet until December 1, before becoming law.

5. (C) Anwar,s Political Secretary Sim Tze Min and PKR
electoral chief Saifuddin Nasution told Poloffs that the
opposition plan to achieve a majority in Parliament by
September 16 remains "on" but others, including PKR Vice
President Azmin Ali were more cautious, noting "we,ll see."
More detached observers remain highly skeptical of Anwar,s
ability to meet his self-proclaimed deadline, but do not
deny, given his present momentum, that the opposition leader
could eventually prevail. Saiffudin maintained that Anwar
is now clearly winning the electoral game, but what remains
is winning over the critical institutions, especially the
police and the military. He claimed, however, that compared
to ten years ago, Anwar and the opposition are in far better
shape in this regard to having, won over a number supporters
within the various key state institutions. He acknowledged
that the Police Special Branch was especially critical in
this regard, expressing the hope that SB personnel, better
than anyone else, knew which way the political winds were
blowing and would want to emerge on the winning side or at
least hedge their bets.

6. (C) Our PKR interlocutors continued to exhibit some
nervousness about PAS's reliability as a coalition partner.
While gratified with what they saw as a sterling PAS
performance in supporting Anwar in Permatang Pauh, they worry
that elements within PAS, especially its youth wing, will
continue to issue extreme pronouncements that alienate other
coalition partners. They also concede that any new balance
of power resulting from MPs crossing over to Anwar,s side
must include sufficient numbers of Malay/Muslims to avoid
alienating PAS. In addition to the fragility of the PR, of
course the next serious obstacle for Anwar is his upcoming
sodomy trial. GOM sources continue to suggest that they
have what they see as some sort of convincing evidence up
their sleeve. This presumably would be revealed upon the
beginning of the trial, the date of which will be determined
when the court reconvenes on September 10.

KEITH

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