Posted by: mulrickillion | January 9, 2012

Malaysia: The end of Sodomy 2.0

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Jan 9th 2012, by R.C. | KUALA LUMPUR, The Economist —

AFTER more than two years of sordid revelations in the media, legal wrangling and political point-scoring, on January 9th the High Court in Malaysia’s capital finally handed down a verdict in Anwar Ibrahim’s sodomy case: not guilty. Homosexuality is illegal in Muslim-majority Malaysia, and if found guilty the former deputy prime minister and current leader of the opposition could have been jailed for up to 20 years and whipped. The case began in 2008 when a male aide reported to the police that Mr Anwar had sodomised him. But Mr Anwar and his supporters have always argued that the charge was a lie and that the whole trial was a put-up job by a nervous government, desperate to discredit him after he came close to winning a general election earlier in that year. . . .

How will the verdict affect Malaysia’s politics? It was delivered against the background of an impending general election, and in the short term Mr Anwar’s victory will doubtless give his party and the opposition in general a much-needed boost. It might even persuade the prime minister, Najib Razak, to postpone going to the polls for a bit longer, to allow time for the political spotlight to swivel back onto his own agenda.

In the longer term, however, the verdict might not serve the opposition so well. Although Mr Anwar remains a charismatic figure and a forceful speaker, he is at 64, he is too familiar and his ideas and rhetoric have not really shifted since the mid-1990s. He has failed to groom a successor or to nurture a new generation of opposition leaders. Rather than becoming a vibrant, modernising force in politics his party has become something of a family-run affair, riven by discord and infighting. In prison, so the hard-nosed political operators say, he would have served as a useful martyr to rally the opposition. Now they are stuck with him indefinitely; a man still strong and popular enough to worry the government, but too weakened to win an election or recruit the cohorts of younger voters that they need. As a result, the more savvy, younger politicians will now be eyeing up the following election for their opportunity, not this coming one. And that’s not good for democracy in Malaysia, which is rarely in rude good health at the best of times.

Malaysia: The end of Sodomy 2.0 | The Economist

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