Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Anwar Ibrahim - Lazarus of Politics?

Former Malaysian deputy Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim who was ousted from his position as No 2 man of Malaysia’s most powerful all-dominating Malay-based political party, reiterated that he won’t rejoin UMNO. However, his pronouncement reminds me of John Howard’s.

Howard is of course a long serving and extremely experienced Aussie politician. Hang on, I know what you must be yelling to me, but I have a reason of not introducing Howard as he is today, yet!

For years John Howard had tried to be Australia’s Prime Minister but many factors worked against him - (1) there was the incumbent, Labour Party’s popular and charismatic Bob Hawke, (2) his own Liberal Party colleague and rival Andrew Peacock was against him until the latter was about to retire, and (3) an Australian political campaign known as Joh-for-PM effectively torpedoed his prime ministerial aspirations. Thus Howard failed time and time again.

When the Aussie media asked him if he would make a comeback, to have another stab at his prime ministerial aspiration, he declared that would be like Lazarus having a triple bypass. Well, in Australia politics, Lazarus did rise for the fourth time and today John Howard has served as the longest and probably most powerful PM of Australia ever.

Once a politician has tasted power at the very top, like John Howard or Anwar Ibrahim, he just can’t tear himself away from that position. Anwar Ibrahim knows that the only way to reach the top has to be via UMNO.

I have read his answers to Malaysiakini’s questions in an interview but despite his declaration not to return to UMNO, I discern verbal loopholes allowing such a comeback. For a start, he over-qualifies his position with regards to UMNO (or, if you like, he over-qualifies UMNO), which is just a form of tap dancing. And he did so around the questions skilfully as a politician with his oratorical skill could.

Just recall how his interview with Lorraine Hahn of CNN went. I have reproduced a relevant extract as follows:

Lorraine: Would you like to one day become PM of Malaysia?

Anwar: I’ve only been out for a few weeks and I think I will have to consider all the options. My immediate preoccupation now is to transcend partisan politics. My major priority now is to help support this process. This building bridges and engaging with all cultures and religions. That to me is more urgent than this issue you’re considering.

Lorraine: But you’re not ruling it out.

Anwar: I wouldn’t rule out anything. But right now, and even in the foreesseable future, my immediate priority has been clear

Notice his tap dancing? Once a top politician, that aspiration and need to be No 1 will always be there.

Expect him to return to UMNO when, not if, the occasion arises.


  1. aside from the reversal, would you actually welcome his return to UMNO? although any return to UMNO is not a promise of more reforms, it is an opportunity to enact structural changes within the party itself - or do you feel it will be more of the same archaic UMNO machinery?

    if Mr Anwar does return, i'm wondering how he will deal with the sense of betrayal 'his' party would feel. it'll be an interesting next few years, maybe?

  2. Or he's just playing the politician and leaving his options open. "Never say never" according to one old American. Now if *that* is the case, will the question of people trusting Anwar to stay the course, will that question arise?