Malaysia's Anwar sworn into parliament

KUALA LUMPUR - Malaysia's Anwar Ibrahim was sworn in to parliament and declared leader of the opposition Thursday, a decade after he was sacked as deputy premier and jailed on sodomy and corruption charges.

Anwar arrived at parliament with his wife Wan Azizah Wan Ismail, who held his seat in northern Penang state during his political exile, and his daughter Nurul Izzah Anwar who is also a parliamentarian.

"I hope the member for Permatang Pauh will contribute to the proceedings of this house. I am satisfied he has been unanimously appointed leader of the opposition," said speaker Pandikar Amin Mulia.

The charismatic 61-year-old won Tuesday's by-election in his home state of Penang despite an intense campaign mounted by the Barisan Nasional coalition, which has ruled Malaysia for half a century since independence from Britain.

He returns to parliament just in time to join Friday's 2009 budget announcement and debate.

Before his fall from grace in the late 1990s, Anwar was deputy prime minister in the government that has ruled Malaysia for 50 years and which he now hopes to topple in a confidence vote in September.

Anwar's three-party coalition of reformers, Islamists and an ethnic Chinese party has 82 MPs in parliament and hopes to win over 30 government legislators so as to have a majority in the 222-member chamber.

Despite his triumphant return to parliament, Anwar faces court on September 10 as he fights to clear his name of new sodomy allegations levelled by a 23-year-old former aide, which he says have been concocted by the government.

Anwar says the latest sodomy case is politically motivated and designed to harm his quest to lead the country and reform the economy.

Sodomy is a serious crime in Malaysia, a conservative and predominantly Muslim country, and carries a maximum penalty of 20 years' imprisonment.

Anwar spent six years in jail on the original sodomy charge, but was freed in 2004 when the conviction was overturned.

Channel NewsAsia

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