PERMATANG PAUH, Aug 26 Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim has won the Permatang Pauh by-election with a massive majority of 15,671 votes, topping the other two candidates in the count in all polling centres.
The opposition leader"s thumping victory of 31,195 votes to 15,524 garnered by the Barisan Nasional"s Datuk Arif Shah Omar Shah was achieved despite just 65.25% of voters casting their ballots compared with 81.2% during the March 8 general election.
Third candidate Hanafi Mamat of Kelantan-based Parti Keadilan Insan Malaysia (Akim) received 92 votes and lost his deposit.
Former MP Datuk Seri Dr Wan Azizah Ismail"s majority in the March general election was 13,398 votes, meaning Anwar has succeeded in increasing PKR"s majority. Earlier exit polls by both PKR and BN had not foreseen such a huge majority.
Anwar thanked everyone who contributed to his campaign after the returning officer had made the official announcement of his victory and proceeded to meet an estimated 50,000 supporters who had gathered outside the Tuanku Bainun Teachers Training Institute counting centre.
Appearing as if in pain but still smiling, the 61-year-old former deputy prime minister walked up and waved to the thousands around him, who began to sing the national anthem -Negaraku- and also shouted -Merdeka- repeatedly.
Earlier, Arif Shah had defiantly claimed that it was not a defeat.
-At least we know that Permatang Pauh still gives us support of 15,000 votes,- he said, insisting that his goal was always to win, not just reduce the margin of defeat, which he also failed to do.
He blamed his defeat on voters being attracted to the opposition"s -propaganda, promises and innuendoes-.
The BN"s campaign chief, Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak, graciously congratulated Anwar on his victory and called on him to -contribute to the country"s wellbeing and respect healthy democratic principles-.
-As I said from the outset, we were the underdogs,- he said. -His votes are similar to his wife, just an increase of 847 votes while BN votes slipped by 1,426. We will review our weaknesses.-
Wan Azizah had vacated the seat on July 31 to make way for her husband Anwar to contest in the by-election in what was thought to be a mere formality.
Anwar was barred from political office until April 14 this year, missing the March 8 general election by a hair. Wan Azizah held the seat for three terms and was said to be his proxy.
Anwar had been a hugely popular MP in the constituency before her, from 1982 until his high-profile sacking from the BN government in 1999 following Sodomy 1 and accusations of corruption that landed him in prison for six years.
The decision to run in Permatang Pauh came after allegations of sodomy by former aide Saiful Bukhari Azlan which had resulted in the former deputy prime minister's arrest on July 16.
Anwar was charged in court for Sodomy II on Aug 7, but unlike a decade ago, he was released on bail and proceeded to begin his campaign immediately in Permatang Pauh even though nomination was on Aug 16.
One day before nomination, Saiful swore on the Quran in the Federal Territory mosque that his sodomy claims were true.