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Nurul Izzah Anwar
Nurul Izzah Anwar
Bruno Philip
KUALA LUMPUR - The father, Anwar Ibrahim failed: the opposition coalition he's been leading lost this month's national elections. By all accounts, he will never be Prime Minister. The daughter, Nurul Izzah Anwar, was instead reelected comfortably to her seat as Member of Parliament in the May 5 legislative ballot.
Time is on her side, and Nurul, at 32, intends to take full advantage of it.
On election day, before the bad news of the coalition's defeat came out -- the Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition, in power for more than half a century, won by a narrow margin -- Nurul was visiting polling stations by car and with her family, in her local Kuala Lumpur district of Lembah Pantai.
In the front seat was her husband, Shahrir, also 32, who works in finance. In the back, the two younger sisters of Nurul, the eldest of a family of six. "We all are children of chance," says the young woman, to justify her political path. In 1998, her father, Anwar, who was then the Deputy Prime Minister and heir apparent to the chief of government Mahatir Mohammad, was dismissed, arrested and condemned for corruption and eventually for alleged sodomy against one of his former assistants.
"I was only 19," remembers Nurul, "I didn't hear the calling of politics at all. I was studying electronic engineering. But I began to feel such an injustice, the certainty that my father was innocent, so I started working for his defense."
Anwar Ibrahim, 65, now the head of the Pakatan Rakyat, a coalition of three opposition parties, was released in 2004, after six years behind bars.
Pious Muslim, tireless campaigner
Nurul's personality conveys charm and human warmth. Her smile, reproduced everywhere in the neighborhood by the electoral campaign posters, is magnetic. Wearing a pale mauve Islamic veil and a matching flowered tunic with high-heeled black shoes, she is a pious Muslim woman who nevertheless is convinced that religion is a personal matter. In the streets, she tirelessly shakes hands, and poses for pictures with electors who adore her.
"I'm a rather reserved person," she adds to explain her former reluctance to join the race for Parliament. "In 2008, I ran for the first time. I was surprised to win!"
Could young Nurul become Malaysia's "Benazir Bhutto"? There are indeed similarities. Pakistan's former Prime Minister had been a teenager when her father, Zulficar, the then-Prime Minister, was overthrown by a military coup and hanged two years later, in 1979.
Nurul sighs at this comparison: "My father didn't push me to enter politics. My mother was opposed to it..."
Does she intend to become Prime Minister one day? Frowning, she answers: "I am already a Member of Parliament. If you are a teacher, do you want to become the headmaster?"

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