Jailed Anwar opposition leader
Malaysia’s most prominent political prisoner, Anwar Ibrahim, has been named de facto leader of his country’s opposition coalition that will campaign to oust Prime Minister Najib Razak’s scandal-ridden government.
The 69-year-old is serving a five year jail sentence on politicallymotivated sodomy charges. Anwar’s conviction was upheld by Malaysia’s highest court in 2015 and disqualifies him from political office. He will not be able to contest the election that Najib is expected to call later this year.
Former prime minister Mahathir Mohamad announced on Friday the opposition Pakatan Harapan coalition would immediately release Anwar from jail if it wins the election and then seek a royal pardon for him that would open the way for him to re-enter politics.
Analysts say the naming of Anwar to lead the opposition into the election will bolster its chance of ousting Najib who is at the centre of a multi-billion dollar corruption scandal involving the sovereign wealth fund 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB).
Under the leadership of Anwar, a charismatic former deputy prime minister, opposition parties won the popular vote at elections in 2013 but a gerrymandered system of voting favouring rural Malays prevented the government’s defeat.
Mahthir, who stepped down as prime minister in 2003 after 22 years in office, publicly backed Anwar to be a future prime minis- ter last week, prompting a storm of criticism from the government.
Mahathir, 92, remains popular among many voters who remember the boom years of his rule. He pushed Anwar from his government during a power struggle in 1998 and was subsequently accused of vilifying him.
But Dr Mahathir, who has been named Pakatan Harapan’s chairman, now says he made a mistake by not allowing Anwar to succeed him and that he held on to power for too long, only to appoint two prime ministers who disappointed him.
Anwar’s wife, Wan Azizah Wan Ismail has been named Pakatan Harapan’s president. - Fairfax