Malaysia’s Anwar Ibrahim returns to frontline politics in big poll win
PORT DICKSON: Anwar Ibrahim won an overwhelming mandate in a parliamentary by-election on Saturday, officials said, setting the stage for his return to frontline Malaysian politics and sealing the once-jailed opposition figure’s remarkable resurrection.
Figures released by the Election Commission showed he got more than 71 per cent of the total votes cast in a seven-way contest which included a former aide who lodged the sodomy charges that landed Anwar in prison for a second time in 2014.
“I am happy with the results. Allah bless us all,” Anwar said after the victory, which marks the charismatic politician’s stunning political comeback from prison to parliament.
Winning the seat was a key requirement for Anwar to succeed 93-year-old Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, who jailed his former protege and heir apparent on sodomy and corruption charges in 1998 when their relationship soured.
Mahathir returned to the premiership this year after a shock election win, saying he would stay in power for only two years before handing the reins to Anwar.
Anwar was in prison when he forged an unlikely alliance with Mahathir in a bid to unseat then-prime minister Najib Razak, who had called elections for May amid massive corruption allegations.
Underscoring the drama of Saturday’s vote, one of Anwar’s six challengers is the ex-aide who had accused him of sodomy, still illegal in the country.
Polls opened under cloudy skies at 8:00 am and closed nine and a half hours later in the sleepy southern coastal town of Port Dickson, home to a sizeable ethnic Chinese community that has traditionally been one of Anwar’s pillars of support.
“We are voting for the next premier. We need an influential leader to bring long-overdue progress to Port Dickson,” said 60-year-old voter Lee Tian Hock.
“This morning, I prayed to Allah for a big win for Anwar,” retired truck driver Mat Taib, a member of the country’s ethnic Malay majority, said.
“I want him to be our eighth prime minister.”
About 100 supporters greeted Anwar with shouts of “Reformasi” — his battle cry while in opposition — as he arrived at a polling station.
“I will see you in parliament on Monday,” a smiling Anwar told a reporter earlier on Saturday.
Anwar Ibrahim visits a polling station during the by-election in Port Dickson.