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Anwar to be sworn in as Abdullah opposition rises

Anwar to be sworn in as Abdullah opposition rises

Opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim was set to be formally inducted into Malaysia's Parliament Thursday while dissidents in the country's ruling party called for the prime minister's resignation.
Anwar regained his parliamentary seat by a landslide in Tuesday's by-election, delivering a demoralizing defeat for the government, and came on the heels of big gains by the opposition in the March general elections.
Veteran government lawmaker Razaleigh Hamzah, who wants to challenge Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi for the leadership of the United Malays National Organization ruling party, said the results meant that "what scraps of credibility (Abdullah) had left" were gone.
Abdullah, however, played down the significance of Anwar's triumph.
"I believe we can still continue the government," Abdullah was quoted as saying by the Bernama national news agency. "What happened ... was not something so big as to change the situation that exists after the last general election."
Abdullah's party has been the main plank of a coalition that has ruled Malaysia uninterrupted since independence from Britain in 1957, but which was seriously weakened for the first time in the March elections.
Anwar has said he aims to bring the government down by mid September via defections to his opposition group from disaffected government members.
Government leaders had mounted a fierce campaign to deny Anwar victory, hoping voters in Anwar's longtime bedrock of support would desert the charismatic politician after he was charged with sodomizing his 23-year-old former male aide. No date has been set for a trial.
Anwar says the "most sickening" allegation is politically motivated.
In the March elections, Anwar's three-party alliance won an unprecedented 82 of parliament's 222 seats _ 30 short of a majority _ and wrested control of five states.
Parliament Speaker Pandikar Amin Mulia said Anwar would be formally sworn in as a lawmaker Thursday. Opposition parties also planned to endorse him as their leader ahead of a key parliamentary session Friday, when Abdullah announces the annual budget.
Former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad said, "Abdullah must take responsibility and resign now."
Mukhriz Mahathir, Mahathir's lawmaker son, said that "with Anwar Ibrahim in Parliament, we cannot afford to have a weak leadership because it could lead to our downfall."
Abdullah resisted calls to resign immediately after the March elections, though he has pledged to hand power to his deputy, Najib Razak, by mid-2010 in a protracted transition plan publicly endorsed by most top government officials.
Anwar's re-entry into Parliament will complete his political rehabilitation. He was fired as deputy prime minister in 1998 and jailed for six years after he was convicted of corruption and sodomizing his family driver. That sodomy conviction, which he said was politically motivated, was overturned by Malaysia's top court in 2004.