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Anwar critical of Malaysian poll

Anwar greets his supporters after returning to Kuala Lumpur.
Mahathir Mohamad
Anwar Ibrahim

(CNN) -- Malaysia's former deputy prime minister Anwar Ibrahim has called the March 2004 elections "the most seriously flawed in the history of the country" and said he expected more reform from Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi.

Anwar, released from jail two months ago, wrote in an article in The Australian newspaper Monday that he had seen "glaring evidence" of election irregularities involving the use of deceased people's names on voting rolls.

Anwar, once considered the heir-apparent to then-Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, was sacked and jailed in September 1998 after falling out with the Malaysian leader.

In April 1999 he was found guilty of corruption and given a six-year jail term. In August 2000 he was convicted of sodomy charges involving his wife's former driver, and given a nine-year consecutive term.

In September this year, Malaysia's highest court overturned his controversial sodomy conviction and freed him.

Anwar said at the time of his release from jail that it would not have happened under Mahathir and gave credit to Abdullah, who was sworn in as prime minister a year ago.

But in his article in The Australian newspaper, Anwar criticized Abdullah for turning "a blind eye" to what he said were flaws in the March elections convincingly won by the government's Barisan Nasional coalition.

Anwar said he had seen glaring evidence of phantom voters -- people who died three to four years ago and were still on the voting list.

He said because he knew Abdullah to be a "decent man," free of rancour or megalomaniac tendencies, he was surprised at the election activities.

"I would have rated him higher. I thought his substantive reform would begin with the elections," he wrote.

Anwar, 57, returned to Malaysia Sunday after medical treatment in Germany, and immediately kicked off a political comeback.

"Don't think that just because Anwar Ibrahim is free, everything is settled," he told supporters at his house.

Anwar remains banned from the electoral process for at least five years because of his corruption conviction. He finished that sentence last year.

But he has been named special adviser to the opposition People's Justice Party founded by his wife Azizah Ismail while he was in jail.

"The release of Anwar is the beginning of a new chapter. In this chapter we must defend the fate of all people in Malaysia and ensure that our leaders are not arrogant and greedy," Anwar said, The Associated Press reported.

Anwar wrote in The Australian that Abdullah should be commended for his actions against the "more corporate political leaders and corporate players."

But he said corruption was still prevalent, and Malaysia's democracy needed a relatively free media and free and fair elections.

Anwar always maintained he was framed for political reasons and claimed his convictions for corruption and sodomy were rigged to prevent him from challenging Mahathir for power.

Even with an expected one-third off for good behavior, Anwar had five years to go on his nine-year term for sodomy before the court's quashing of his conviction in September.

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