On the 14th floor of Malaysiaâ€™s parliament building â€“ a white, honeycombed 1960s box on the Kuala Lumpur skyline â€“ Anwar Ibrahim speaks quietly for a man known domestically as a populist firebrand.
Talk of a general election in the next few months is in the air, on local blogs and even between the lines of the pro-government media, although Najib Razak, the prime minister, could wait until next April.
â€œThis will be a different election,â€ Malaysiaâ€™s opposition leader promises, dressed in a subdued blue suit and tie. â€œWe are changing the entire political landscape of the country. I think a growing number, particularly the younger Malaysians, want Malaysia to evolve as a mature, vibrant democracy.â€
What many younger Malaysians want was on vivid display two months ago, when tens of thousands of demonstrators took to central Kuala Lumpur in a rally organised by Bersih, an opposition-linked civil society group pushing for electoral reform.
The protest ended violently after demonstrators were dispersed by police using water cannon and teargas.
It was a surprisingly strong showing of popular frustration and also placed Mr Anwar yet again into an uncomfortable spotlight, only months after his acquittal on sodomy charges â€“ the latest chapter in a turbulent political career that has taken him from deputy prime minister and anointed leader-in-waiting in the late 1990s to prison, the formation of a political party and back into parliament.
Video taken at the demonstration by Bersih â€“ Malay for â€œcleanâ€ â€“ showed him gesturing to the crowd, leading the attorney-general to charge that he had been encouraging demonstrators to breach a barricade and enter a square where public protests are banned.
â€œReally flimsy,â€ Mr Anwar says of the charge, repeating the gesture by rolling one hand over another. â€œLook at it clearly in the point of law, what is the evidence?â€
Mr Anwarâ€™s supporters see this as another government-inspired ploy â€“ just like the most recent sodomy charge â€“ to keep him off the campaign trail.
The election will be close. It was at the hands of Mr Anwarâ€™s Peopleâ€™s Alliance that the ruling coalition, dominated by the United Malay National Organisation (Umno), lost a two-thirds majority in parliament in 2008 â€“ a shock for a party that has ruled Malaysia since independence.
â€œThe next election will be the most competitive in [the] history of Malaysia,â€ says Bridget Welsh, an expert in Malaysian affairs at Singapore Management University. â€œThe opposition, while facing problems internally and its own trust deficit, has gained support by moving from problem raising toward gaining experience at the state level in government offering more options for Malaysians.â€
Now 65, Mr Anwar admits this is â€œprobablyâ€ his last shot at becoming prime minister. He seems tired for a man facing his best shot yet of governing the countryâ€™s complex mix of 28m Malays, Chinese and Indians.
â€œWe present our manifesto, our policies and, of course, if I get a mandate, I continue, otherwise I think Iâ€™ll go back to teaching,â€ Mr Anwar says.
Six years in jail on sodomy charges have taken their toll. Another cat and mouse game with Malaysiaâ€™s judiciary looks likely, thanks to his hand gestures at the bersih rally. On Monday, a judge set a date in September for hearing an application by Mr Anwarâ€™s lawyers to dismiss the charge.
Yet he perks up when asked to rate the Najib administrationâ€™s record.
Two years ago the prime minister rolled out a vast â€œeconomic transformation programmeâ€ to more than double per capita income to $15,000 by 2020. The ruling coalition says it has created over 3.3m jobs and has been accompanied by a billboard campaign for multi-ethnic co-operation, known as â€œ1Malaysiaâ€.
â€œYou talk about â€˜1Malaysiaâ€™, but the race divide now is worse than before,â€ says Mr Anwar. â€œWho would question the whole spirit of Malaysia? We donâ€™t. But the action [of the government] is something else.â€
Mr Anwarâ€™s supporters say he is one of the few whose agenda can pull together the countryâ€™s complex ethnic patchwork. Yet critics say his challenge in power would be holding together his own coalition of the ethnic Chinese Democratic Action Party, his own Parti Keadilan Rakyat and the Islamist Parti Islam Malaysia.
â€œThis is not a coalition based on just flimsy deals,â€ he insists. â€œWe actually crafted clear policies. There may be some minor issues that we could argue on, even within one party, or one race. But with the substantive issues, no.â€
As he leaves his office the oppositionâ€™s best hope for power seems more energised. But the fact that his office is devoid of any decoration, and his desk is empty, reveals how pressured he remains.
â€œWe donâ€™t keep papers here because thereâ€™s no security here as far as we are concerned. I donâ€™t leave anything here. Itâ€™s not good,â€ Mr Anwar says, quietly again. â€œBut then thatâ€™s how we have to survive.â€