By Christopher Badeaux
In some ways, vile anti-Semite and cowardly woman-abuser though he is, you have to feel sorry for . Well, you’d have to if he didn’t truck with Jew-hating Muslim extremists and use adoring political crowds as opportunities to take shots at his political opponent’s wife. But a more sympathetic man than Anwar would be a perfect tragic figure: A man who reaches his limits just shy of his goals; a man who can never quite reach the top; a man whose past crimes become less important than his present successes, which are themselves ultimately failures.
Anwar Ibrahim is a Sisyphus who never reaches the middle of the slope.
Anwar’s most famous, present achievement is to craft a dysfunctional opposition coalition composed of his own vanity party, Barisan Nasional, the governing coalition whose primary achievements are rapid economic progress and continued democratization. In other words, Anwar’s merry little band of schizophrenics must convince Malaysians that democracy and increasing standards of living are bad things, and that a group of socialists, Islamists, and rich poseurs will somehow form a government together, maintain that government, and keep the democratic and economic development going full-tilt.(PKR); the socialist-left/secularist (DAP); and the sh’ria-obsessed Parti Islam Semalaysi (PAS). Just the descriptions of those parties makes clear that their unifying plank is desperation, a determination to finally win a national election against the hated
Unsurprisingly, Malaysians show no sign of accepting this argument.
Anwar’s second great achievement is to convince the world at large — if not Malaysians yet — that his conviction for corruption (upheld on appeal), much-documented association with the , and apparent proclivity for finding himself denying wide-ranging sexual adventures, are not remotely reflective of the sort of head of government he would be, if he could convince his countrymen to elect a government composed of Islamic extremists, far-left socialists, and general malcontents. While the U.S. foreign policy establishment is finally coming to grips with Anwar’s real nature, his constant self-promotion and the general laziness of a large number of foreign reporters and foreign ministries have aided his disproportionately favorable image.
Both of these achievements will be for even less than the nothing they currently are if Anwar is unable to better, during the upcoming national elections, his just-shy-of-the-goal electoral result from the 2008, when the wind was at his back and the electorate was in a mood for national change. Three-and-change years later, Anwar is showing the stripes that led to his corruption conviction years ago, and reminding the world why Malaysians have not yet shown any inclination to hand the reins of power to a man who seems to spend a lot of time making amateur porn videos.
Anwar’s latest stumble — stumbles seem to come more rapidly for the man these days — lies in calling here). So, quite aside from the sheer heroism Anwar displayed and the statesmanlike pose he has adopted (calling one’s opponent an animal is no more acceptable in Malaysia than in any other civilized country), he elected to call a devout Muslim a pig.a “pandi kutti,” a Tamil term for a piglet, to a group of Indian Malaysians. The Prime Minister was not, of course, present; Anwar’s stock in trade these days is to belittle his political opponents (and their wives) before adoring crowds, displaying the sort of raw political courage that has led to nearly a month of silence on the allegations that he was, according to long-time new media backer Raja Petra, possibly the man behind a series of preposterous allegations against the Prime Minister (detailed
Smart opposition leaders with the wind at their back take pointed jabs at their opponents. Elitists with coalitions doomed to failure by their very nature and no chance of success resort to name-calling. The difference is subtle in print, but obvious in practice: Suggesting that one’s opponent is asleep at the wheel, confused, incompetent, corrupt: These are all on the table. Name-calling is a way of indicating that one’s primary schooling was not an unrivaled success. Naturally, the Prime Minister is unfazed, but when his putative opponent has been reduced to calling him a poopy-head, it would seem reasonable to treat Anwar as a nuisance rather than a danger.
Anwar’s world is not only crumbling on the political front, where his coalition is starting to crumble and his own party shedding supporters, and his former attack-dog blogger has implicated him in a major controversy. He is dealing with yet another sodomy trial, one looking progressively worse for him over time. Indeed, “worse all the time” is an understatement, as authorities have positively identified Anwar’s DNA from the samples collected at the scene. No matter what we in the West think of making sodomy a crime, the man who would be prime minister should be the first to obey his nation’s laws, and the first to righteously demand exoneration if he was innocent, offering his own DNA to test against the sample, thundering for justice from the heavens.
Instead, Malaysians get more rallies about the prime minister’s wife.
An honest assessment of the opposition in Malaysia shows that they have no real chance in the upcoming elections, and that even if they somehow succeeded in getting past the post, they would neither make Anwar Ibrahim prime minister nor last as a governing coalition for very long. An honest assessment of Anwar’s life shows a man who has striven, sought, found, not yielded, and ultimately, will never win. His desperation is clearly overwhelming him.
Were he a man of even average moral decency, we should ache with his tragedy. It is a pity that at the last, amid a storm of name calling and gutter politics of his own making, he cannot even succeed in being of average moral decency.