Image: Malaysia's Anwar Ibrahim
Bazuki Muhammad  /  Reuters
Malaysia's de facto opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim addresses a gathering in Shah Alam outside Kuala Lumpur on Monday.
updated 7/2/2008 4:18:26 AM ET 2008-07-02T08:18:26

Malaysia’s opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim has vowed to seize power soon, stepping up his campaign against the government as he fights back accusations of sodomizing a young worker in his office.

Addressing some 7,000 people on Tuesday night, Anwar accused the ruling National Front coalition government of being corrupt, inefficient and uncaring. He promised to set right the problems plaguing the country, including bringing down fuel prices, which were raised by a whopping 41 percent to 63 percent last month.

“Once we take power, the next day we will lower the price of oil,” he said to loud cheers in his first public meeting since he was hit by the sodomy accusation last week.

Police are investigating a complaint made by the 23-year-old male aide that he was sodomized by Anwar. The 60-year-old politician, who is married with six children, says he is a victim of a conspiracy by a desperate government clinging to power.

Sodomy, even if consensual, is punishable by up to 20 years in prison in Muslim-majority Malaysia.

The government has denied any hand in the claim.

Former deputy premier
Anwar was fired as deputy premier in 1998 when he was faced with a similar sodomy accusation, and spent six years in prison until Malaysia’s highest court overturned the charge in 2004. While in custody, he was beaten by police and suffered from arsenic poisoning.

“I went to prison once and was beaten half to death. Do you think I will remain silent now? We will fight!” he said, adding that his accuser was being manipulated by a top politician in the government.

Anwar led a three-party opposition coalition to spectacular gains in the March 8 general elections, which reduced the National Front’s strength to 140 seats for a thin 30-seat majority in the 222-member Parliament. Anwar has said he will be able to pull 30 lawmakers to his side by mid-September.

'Turmoil'
Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi is also under pressure from some of his own party members to step down.

“The National Front is in turmoil, with enemies from within and attacks from outside,” said Anwar. “If the elections had been free and fair, the opposition would be in power, not the National Front,” he said.

The National Front has run the government since independence in 1957, and an opposition leadership was unthinkable until this year. Its massive gains are a reflection not only of Anwar’s charisma and strategic skills but also of the growing disenchantment against the National Front among the majority ethnic Malays.

Ibrahim Suffian, the director of the independent Merdeka Center opinion research firm, said a lot of people think the sodomy allegation was aimed at derailing Anwar’s political plans.

“It’s still early days ... but Anwar may gain more out of this because of the credibility issues that the government needs to face,” Ibrahim told The Associated Press.

© 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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