Why can’t Anwar Ibrahim contest in the 2008 general election?

Parti Keadilan Rakyat de facto leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim is, for all intents and purposes, participating actively in the national political process. However, the former deputy prime minister still has to sit out any general election, by-election or even his own party’s election, till after April 2008.

Anwar was sentenced to six years’ imprisonment on April 14, 1999, after being found guilty of corruption. In July 2000, he was sentenced to nine years jail for sodomy. He won his appeal against the sodomy conviction in September 2004 and was released.

By then, he had finished serving the first sentence for corruption which was in April 2003 in after the sentence was reduced for good behaviour. According to the Federal Constitution, this bars him from any official political activity for five years till April 15, 2008.

Article 48 of the constitution which deals with disqualification from membership in Parliament, lists the reasons a person cannot be an election candidate. If s/he:

i) has been found or declared to be of unsound mind;

ii) has been found to be an undischarged bankrupt;

iii) is holding an “office of profit”;

iv) has failed to lodge any return of election expenses;

v) has obtained a foreign citizenship; or

vi) has been convicted of an offence by a Malaysian court and sentenced to imprisonment of at least one year and/or minimum fine of RM2,000, is still liable and has not received a free pardon.

The disqualification arising from failure to submit the return of election expenses and from criminal conviction may be removed by the Yang di-Pertuan Agong. If it is not removed, it will cease after five years.

Another politician who had to sit out an election is DAP secretary-general Lim Guan Eng. The former Kota Melaka (Malacca) member of parliament was convicted in April 1997 – under the Sedition Act and Printing Presses and Publications Act – for publishing a pamphlet entitled “Ceramah Kisah Benar” in 1995. The pamphlet had criticised the way the government handled the statutory rape allegations against then Malacca Chief Minister, Tan Sri Abdul Rahim Tamby Chik, in 1994. Abdul Rahim denied any relationship with the girl and was never prosecuted. Lim, who was sentenced to two concurrent 18-month sentences, was released on good behaviour on Aug 25, 1999 – about 5 months after the 11th general election.

(Sources: Federal Constitution, Amnesty International, news reports)

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