Malaysian opposition leader suspended from parliament ahead of snap election

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The Independent Online

The opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim was barred from parliament for six months yesterday, dealing a blow to the embattled opposition and raising the possibility of protests before an expected snap election next year.

Mr Anwar was censured for breaking a parliamentary code of conduct in connection with a debate in which he attacked the government. Some of his colleagues hinted at protests in response, but Mr Anwar declined to say what his next step would be.

"The only option we have now is to change the system and the government," he said after leading an opposition walkout from parliament shortly before the censure vote.

The ban does not prevent Mr Anwar from contesting the next election but it could erode public confidence in the opposition, which has been rocked by a string of by-election defeats and perceptions of a widening rift in Mr Anwar's party.

Prime Minister Najib Razak is expected to take advantage of strong economic growth and call for a general election next year, although one is not due until 2013. Investors will keep a wary eye on the political tension.

Mr Anwar, a former deputy prime minister and one-time rising star of Malaysian politics, spent nearly six years in prison following a 1999 conviction for sodomy which he denied and said was politically motivated.