Malaysia's Anwar walks free following pardon

Malaysia's Anwar walks free following pardon

Days after taking in the stunning election triumph of Malaysia's long-languishing Pakatan Harapan political pact, the country's 31 million people on Tuesday were steadying themselves for yet another historic moment - the release from jail of the victorious alliance's icon, Anwar Ibrahim.

After Najib lost last week's election, new Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad said he would reopen investigations into 1MDB and declassify the audit report.

"This matter is up for discussion, but Anwar has never demanded to be prime minister immediately", she was quoted as telling reporters at a rehabilitation hospital where her husband is recuperating from a shoulder surgery.

Malaysia's king has agreed to pardon him, paving the way for his return to politics. He was set to meet the king after leaving the hospital, and planned to speak to media in the afternoon.

Mr Anwar, who was formerly Dr Mahathir's political rival, has been promised leadership of Malaysia's new governing coalition when Dr Mahathir, 92, decides to step down.

Anwar served as Dr Mahathir's deputy and finance minister before being removed from his post and incarcerated on sodomy and corruption charges, which human rights groups and foreign governments criticised as being politically motivated.

It was Anwar's second spell in prison.

He maintains his innocence, and says on both occasions Mahathir and Najib turned to trumping up charges against him to keep him out of politics.

"For the time being, I will run the country", Mahathir said, adding that he will lead for "one or two years". His wife, Wan Azizah Wan Ismail, who heads Anwar's party, is now the new deputy prime minister.

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Even while in jail, Anwar said he had detected growing outrage among Malaysians against Najib, who has been accused of involvement in plundering billions of dollars from sovereign wealth fund 1MDB.

But in 1998, they disagreed on how to tackle the Asian financial crisis and fell out.

He was sacked from the ruling party and founded the Reformasi movement, challenging Mahathir's government.

Before he can become prime minister, Anwar must first contest a by-election to become a member of parliament. Yet rather than give up, Anwar worked from his prison cell to forge a new opposition alliance by ending the two-decade feud with Mahathir - a gamble that paid off when the alliance won the 9 May polls.

"The base case is that Mahathir passes the baton to Anwar".

After spending six years in jail, Anwar later used his star power to unite the previously hapless opposition before the latest sodomy charges cast him once again into the political wilderness. "Authoritarian leaders always believe the best way to deal with dissidents is to jail them, but throughout history, it has always backfired".

Najib denies any wrongdoing in connection with losses at the fund.

Senior officials at scandal-plagued state fund 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) withheld information from its board and took some decisions without the board's approval, according to a Malaysian government audit of the fund that was declassified on Tuesday.

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