Malaysian media cast doubt on future of opposition coalition

Malaysia's opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim arrives with his wife Wan Azizah, for the verdict in his final appeal against a conviction for sodomy, at the federal court in Putrajaya, Malaysia on Feb 10, 2015. -- PHOTO: REUTERS
Malaysia's opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim arrives with his wife Wan Azizah, for the verdict in his final appeal against a conviction for sodomy, at the federal court in Putrajaya, Malaysia on Feb 10, 2015. -- PHOTO: REUTERS

The jailing of opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim dominated the Malaysian media yesterday, with all the major papers featuring the Federal Court's ruling on their front pages.

Most of them reported on the trial, the mood among the supporters who gathered, and the final verdict that Anwar will be jailed for five years for sodomising his former aide. But a few went further to suggest the end of the veteran lawmaker's political career.

"Is this the end?" English-language paper The Star asked on its cover, while China Press printed in red "Finished!", with a picture of a sobbing opposition supporter.

While the immediate reference is to Anwar - whose jail sentence will cause him to miss the next general election due by 2018 and could well end his political career - reports also questioned the future of the opposition Pakatan Rakyat alliance, which has been fracturing and may break altogether without its de facto leader.

One article in The Star quoted analysts saying it may be time for Parti Keadilan Rakyat deputy president Azmin Ali to step up to the plate for the opposition. It also predicted that more of Anwar's children may join politics. Currently only one is active.

Sin Chew Daily ran a picture of Anwar's wife and six children outside the courtroom on Tuesday, next to a picture of them during his first sodomy trial in 2000. "History repeats itself 15 years later," it said.

News site Malaysiakini, meanwhile, published a list of "winners and losers". Prime Minister Najib Razak is a "winner", it said, because while he may come in for international criticism, the jailing of Anwar will allow him to strengthen his Umno support base.

In an editorial, Umno-controlled New Straits Times hit out at those who criticised the verdict, describing it as "some Malay-sians' inability to mature politically". It said: "That tendency to blind loyalty, more in the character of feudalism, can hobble the country's credibility."

chengwee@sph.com.sg