Ethnic and religious tensions may be rising again in Malaysia after having largely been set aside by the political shock that followed the March 8 general election that nearly toppled the country’s ruling national coalition. With the United Malays National Organisation weakened by an internal power struggle and its poor showing in the last general election, critics say the party is again intensifying its racial and religious rhetoric. The party is particularly worried about an August by-election in Penang that is expected to see Anwar return to parliament, possibly to claim power for the opposition. Anwar was sacked as deputy prime minister and finance minister by former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad and jailed for six years on charges of abuse of power and sodomy. The sodomy conviction, which is largely seen as trumped-up, was eventually overturned in 2004 and Anwar was released.