Malaysia’s Opposition Reborn

In Malaysia’s recent elections, opposition parties managed their strongest showing since the country gained its independence from Britain in 1957, cutting the ruling coalition’s parliamentary majority to below two-thirds. Where the country’s newly invigorated democracy goes from here rests with one man, Anwar Ibrahim, the deputy prime minister sacked by former premier Mahathir Mohamad and later jailed.

Anwar can finally make the opposition a credible check on the National Front ruling coalition, but knows that he will never become prime minister this way.  No one, after all, expects the opposition to win enough seats to form a government in the conceivable future. He can allow himself to be wooed back by his former party, the United Malays National Organization (UMNO), the National Front’s leading member.

UMNO is widely believed to have held talks with Anwar before. Now, more than ever, it needs Anwar to reestablish its credibility. And, to become prime minister, Anwar needs UMNO.

Arguably, being inside UMNO and the government would allow Anwar to better institute the reforms he has so ardently advocated. But, before all that, Anwar needs to get himself elected to parliament again.