NEWLY-ELECTED member of parliament Anwar Ibrahim said he felt “vindicated” by his successful return to politics after a tumultuous career that saw him imprisoned twice on charges he says were politically motivated.
“I have been deprived of my right from time to time and I have to go through a by-election to come back … I feel vindicated,” Anwar told reporters at the swearing-in ceremony in Malaysian parliament on Monday.
The 71-year-old joins his wife, Wan Azizah Wan Ismail – the current deputy prime minister – and his daughter, Nurul Izzah Anwar, in parliament after a sweeping victory saw him secure 72 percent of the vote in the Port Dickson by-election.
Dubbed Malaysia’s prime minister-in-waiting, Anwar is expected to take over the premiership from current PM and Anwar’s former bitter rival Dr Mahathir Mohamad.
Mahathir took the position as de facto head of the Pakatan Harapan coalition in the lead up to May’s election on the understanding he would step down as soon as Anwar was granted a royal pardon. This would clear Anwar’s past convictions, allowing him to enter into politics once again.
Anwar secured that pardon just seven days after the landmark May 9 election that ousted long-ruling United Malay’s National Organisation. His election to member of parliament is the latest step on his pathway to the premiership.
However, five months on from the election, Mahathir is showing no signs of giving up his seat at the head of the country.
Anwar said on Monday they were not setting a timeline for the transition of power. He also reaffirmed his commitment to his role as MP, saying he would not be seeking a cabinet position in order to allow Mahathir the “space and latitude to continue unaffected by the constraints of time or pressure,” he told reporters.
He added that he gives his “total and unequivocal support” to both Mahathir and the whole cabinet in progressing the coalition’s agenda.
The relationship between Anwar and Mahathir has been complicated and strained over their decades in politics. Back in the 1990s, the man that Anwar now describes as “the best man to lead Malaysia” was the driving force behind his first jailing.
Once deputy prime minister of the former ruling coalition, Anwar was convicted of sodomy and corruption in 1999 after a power struggle with then-prime minister Mahathir. He was freed in 2004 but, after becoming a political threat to then-prime minister Najib Razak, he was once again convicted for sodomy in 2015, charges that he said were designed to destroy his political career.