Updated at 4:30 p.m. ET on 2018-04-06
Malaysia’s four most important opposition parties will drop their separate logos and contest upcoming elections under the banner of jailed opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim's party, leaders said Friday.
The move came a day after authorities suspended the registration of former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad’s new party and hours after Prime Minister Najib Razak dissolved parliament, clearing the way for elections expected by mid-May.
“It is not easy for every Pakatan Harapan party member to drop their symbols,” Mahathir said, referring to the informal opposition coalition. “But because we want to unite, we agreed that all these four parties will use only one symbol.”
“I am very happy, something that was impossible to do before, it was done by all of us now. I am pleased to inform Malaysians and the world … the symbol we are going to use is the People’s Justice Party (PKR),” he said to cheers at a campaign event in Pasir Gudang, Johor state.
On Thursday, Malaysia’s Registrar of Societies (RoS) announced it had rejected Pakatan Harapan’s application to be registered as a political coalition and de-registered Mahathir’s party, Bersatu, saying the party had failed to hand over required documents within a 30-day deadline.
Leaders of all four parties in the opposition alliance shared the stage at Friday’s event in Johor, including Wan Azizah Wan Ismail, Anwar’s wife and the current PKR president.
“I feel very happy with Pakatan Harapan’s decision to use the Peoples Justice Party’s logo for the next general election,” Wan Azizah told BenarNews, calling it a historic night and symbolic of people’s support for her husband.
The founder of the opposition People’s Justice Party was charged with sodomizing a former aide in 2008. The High Court acquitted Anwar in 2012 but the Court of Appeal reversed that decision and sentenced him in 2014 to five years in prison.
A court recently rejected his latest attempt to overturn the conviction after reports surfaced that the lead prosecutor had received millions from the prime minister to handle the case.
Anwar, who is 70 and being treated for a shoulder problem, led the opposition to new gains in 2013 elections, five years after the ruling Barisan Nasional coalition lost its super majority in parliament for the first time since 1957.
PKR holds 28 seats in the parliament set to be dissolved Saturday. The opposition party that holds the most seats, 36, is the Democratic Action Party (DAP).
“The DAP decision not to use the Rocket logo, which had appeared in the ballot papers for 11 general elections from 1969 to 2013, was not an easy one, but a most painful and heart-wrenching decision,” DAP founder Lim Kit Siang wrote in a blog post.
“The 14th General Election is probably the only opportunity in many decades for a change of federal government and for Malaysia to take the first step to become a normal democracy where voters can change the government peacefully and democratically,” he said.
The goal is for opposition bloc candidates to win a simple majority in parliament “to Save Malaysia from becoming a failed, rogue and kleptocratic state,” he said.