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Opposition leader Anwar returns to Parliament as spouse guest

International Herald Tribune - KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia: Ten years after being kicked out, Malaysian opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim returned to Parliament on Tuesday but only as a spouse guest.

"This is a new beginning. I have entered. I will never leave again," Anwar said after attending the formal opening of Parliament, where he was once deputy prime minister and finance minister.

Anwar was invited as the husband of Wan Azizah Wan Ismail, who won a seat for their People's Justice Party and is now the formal opposition leader in Parliament.

Anwar said it won't be long before he is elected a lawmaker in a by-election.

He was ousted from government in 1998 by then Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad in a power struggle amid accusations of corruption and sodomy. Anwar denied the charges, which were widely believed to be trumped up.
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The sodomy charge was later overturned but he served prison time after being convicted of corruption.

The corruption charge prevented him from holding public office until April 14, 2008, which meant he could not contest the March 8 general elections.

"Yes, 10 years is a long time but it is good to be back," he said after mingling with Sultan Mizan Zainal Abidin, Malaysia's constitutional monarch, and other dignitaries including former colleagues, over tea. "They were polite. Just chitchat," Anwar said.

"I always believe that in politics you shouldn't be bitter and personal. In fact I was happy to meet some of my very old friends including those in the Cabinet. They said very nice things and I reciprocated," he said.

A record 82 opposition members from a three-party alliance led by Anwar were elected to Parliament, breaking the ruling National Front's stranglehold over legislative power for the first time in 40 years.

Anwar said his wife is not his proxy. "In the past 10 years she has grown clever and competent in her own accord and strength. She's no longer just here by virtue of being Anwar's wife," he said.




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