Jailed former deputy prime minister Anwar Ibrahim (pictured) is well-placed to win the Port Dickson parliamentary by-election on Saturday against six contenders, and mark a return to frontline politics that would have seemed highly unlikely a year ago.
Ally turned jailer turned ally Mahathir Mohamad campaigned for his former protege this week to dispel rumours of tension between the prime minister and his apparent successor.
Appearing together at a rally together for the first time in 20 years, Mahathir and Anwar declared their love for each other.
“I love him as a father and as a leader,” said Anwar. “I fought against him and now I accept that he is the best man to lead Malaysia now.”
During his campaign, Anwar has promised major investments in Port Dickson should he win, and last week launched a free online tuition programme for children. And he should be well-placed in government to deliver his promises.
In 1998, Mahathir, apparently fearing Anwar’s popularity, had his deputy ousted from office and charged with sodomy and corruption.
His court case, the longest ever in Malaysia, saw Anwar handed a 15-year sentence. He was released in 2004, a year after Mahathir had left office, but in 2015 he was convicted again of sodomy in charges he said were politically motivated.
Their relationship was publicly acrimonious as recently as late 2017 but, in January, Mahathir built bridges to unite against then prime minister Najib Razak.
They agreed that Mahathir would pardon Anwar if he won the May general election and Anwar would replace the 93-year-old as prime minister after two years.
Mahathir has since overseen the pardon and release of Anwar and allowed him to stand for re-election in Port Dickson. It is the fourth by-election after the May 9 general election.
Resident Noraziah Mohd Shariff is seeking a declaration that Anwar is not qualified to contest any parliamentary seat, saying he was released from prison on May 16 after receiving a royal pardon but the king did not remove Anwar’s disqualification from becoming a parliamentarian.
“I am happy to be able to campaign for Anwar today,” Mahathir told the crowd. “I hope that in this by-election, victory will be given to the Alliance of Hope, to Anwar. I hope that we can continue to work together … not for Mahathir or Anwar but for our beloved country.”
The by-election was triggered so Anwar could return to parliament, sparking claims Anwar is being given “undemocratic” preferential treatment.
Anwar’s wife, Wan Azizah, who is deputy prime minister, is expected to step aside when her husband returns to the cabinet.
Former deputy prime minister Anwar Ibrahim has had an unusual political career, even by Malaysian standards. Picture credit: Wikimedia