Jailed An­war op­po­si­tion leader

The Southland Times - - WORLD - LIND­SAY MUR­DOCH

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

An­war Ibrahim

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