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Political battle brews as Anwar aims for big win in Kajang

A political battle is brewing in Malaysia as opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim aims for a big win in Kajang to mark his entry into the state assembly of the country's richest state.

KUALA LUMPUR: A political battle is brewing in Malaysia as opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim aims for a big win in Kajang to mark his entry into the state assembly of the country's richest state.

Malaysia's Trade Minister Mustapa Mohamed has warned of far-reaching implications from the March 23 by-election in the Selangor state constituency of Kajang.

The seat was vacated by the opposition Keadilan party to pave the way for the entry of its leader Anwar into the state assembly.

Anwar is already working his ground, warming up for the actual campaigning that officially kick-starts after nomination on March 11.

The ruling Barisan Nasional (BN) government has given a thumbs down to the opposition's so-called Kajang move.

While the BN has yet to make a decision on the by-election, Mustapa has warned of heavy costs to the country beyond the US$0.5-million spending allocated by the election commission.

Mustapa said: “Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim is very hungry to fight for the seat. Whoever is doing this estimation of costs needs to be aware that there are all kinds of costs. Direct and indirect, and whatever direct costs that one can come up with, the indirect will be… in my view, at least a multiple of 10.”

Apart from costs, the Kajang by-election has also generated heated public debate.

Former co-chair of electoral reform group Bersih, Ambiga Sreenevasan, urged the opposition party to come clean on its true intention in Selangor.

Ambiga said: "To me, you don't ask the leader of opposition to take such a huge risk, just to be an assemblyman. To me, there has to be more clarity about the position of MB (Menteri Besar)."

Apart from speculation that Anwar wants to become the Menteri Besar, or Chief Minister of Selangor, Ambiga also took a swipe at the opposition for painting it as a do-or-die battle for the Pakatan Rakyat alliance.

Ambiga said: "Telling voters that if they don't vote for Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim, it will be the end of Pakatan Rakyat, I don't think you should pitch your case (this way). People of Kajang, I think you have to trust them, you can trust them. You can trust Malaysians... Okay, we get it. But we want you to be straight with us. That's all."

Analysts said while Selangor may be an ideal launch pad for Anwar to try and capture Putrajaya in the next election, taking over as Menteri Besar may be easier said than done.

Keith Leong, research analyst at KRA group, said: "If he decides to take the Menteri Besar-ship for himself, and if either his allies in Pakatan Rakyat or the sultan blocks him, then you will have an impasse.

“He is going for broke. I mean, this could be the end of his political career or it could be the next step in his long quest to get back to Putrajaya. Already many people feel the time has come for him to make way for younger leaders and if he can't make it, it'll heighten the voices even more."

That is why some analysts said if the plans fail, Kajang may be his political swan song, marking an end to Anwar's political career. 

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