Malaysian opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim Friday was primed for a return to office, preparing his by-election campaign as he mounts a bitter political and personal fightback over sodomy allegations.
Anwar is set to contest the by-election for a parliamentary seat in northern Penang state vacated by his wife Wan Azizah Wan Ismail after a turbulent decade for the charismatic opposition figurehead.
"We will start the campaign programme this weekend. Anwar is heading to Penang to launch it," Tian Chua, his Keadilan party's information chief, told AFP.
Anwar has said he decided to contest his hometown seat in Penang state as he seeks to return to parliament after a 10-year absence, adding that leaders of the other two parties in the opposition alliance supported him.
"Nothing is going to stop Anwar's return to politics unless the ruling government cheats with the use of phantom voters and vote-buying," information chief Tian said.
Anwar's decision to contest a by-election came after his party said he could face imminent arrest on charges that he sodomised a 23-year-old male aide, allegations he has denied saying they are politically motivated.
He was jailed 10 years ago for the same sex charges before they were overturned, and was also imprisoned for corruption.
Anwar has called his latest accuser, Mohamad Saiful Bukhari Azlan, an "outright liar" who was working with others in power to frame him and block his plans to topple the government.
The Keadilan's Tian said however Anwar's by-election bid could come to a crashing halt next week if police arrest him on the latest sodomy charges.
"I think they may act against him. But we hope the authorities will act in a fair and just manner and do not arrest him," Tian said.
Deputy Prime Minister Najib Razak admitted Anwar remained a formidable poitical foe and acknowledged the seat was in an area where the opposition leader is hugely popular.
"We have to be realistic. It will be tough. We will do our best," he said. "We accept his decision. We will face him."
Najib said the government was unconcerned about Anwar's political comeback, despite his repeated public promise that he will topple Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi's regime by the end of the year.
"The government is not threatened," he said.
Najib denied the government has tried to destroy Anwar's political career and comeback with the new sodomy allegations.
"It is an accusation made by his own staff," he said in reference to the former aide-turned-accuser. "It is not made by the government," he said.
Anwar has said he will form a new government with the help of defecting lawmakers from the powerful ruling Barisan Nasional coalition.
A return to parliament would be a next step in the political rehabilitation of Anwar, who was sacked as deputy premier in 1998 and later jailed on the sodomy and corruption charges.
Anwar was considered the heir apparent to then prime minister Mahathir Mohamad when he was fired.