Opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim took his place on Thursday as a member of Malaysia's Parliament, a major step in his goal to topple a government weakened by electoral defeats and internal dissent.
Anwar, dressed in dark blue traditional Malay shirt, pants and cap, was sworn in as a legislator in a simple ceremony in the main chamber of Parliament amid loud thumping of desks by opposition members.
The speaker, who administered the oath, formally declared Anwar the leader of the three-party opposition alliance. Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, Deputy Prime Minister Najib Razak and most cabinet ministers were not present.
Anwar regained his parliamentary seat in the northern Penang state by a landslide in a by-election on Tuesday in which only one district was contested. It came on the heels of big gains by the opposition in the March general elections that loosed the government's 51-year grip on power.
Anwar has said he aims to be the next prime minister after bringing down the government by Sept 16 via defections from disaffected members of Abdullah's ruling coalition.
"Anwar whatever we think of him and many of us are deeply skeptical is looking more and more like our future Prime Minister," wrote columnist Karim Raslan on Thursday in The Star daily.
"There is a mounting sense of inevitability to his impending succession," he wrote.
But significant hurdles remain, the biggest of them a criminal charge that he sodomised a 23-year-old male aide, the second time in his career he has faced a sodomy accusation.