Malaysia's Anwar walks free after royal pardon, meets Mahathir

 Malaysia's Anwar walks free after royal pardon, meets Mahathir
PHOTO: AFP

KUALA LUMPUR - Jailed Malaysian reformist Anwar Ibrahim was granted a full pardon on Wednesday and walked free from a hospital in Kuala Lumpur, capping dramatic changes in the Southeast Asian country since the government was ousted in an election upset last week.

The question for Malaysia now is how Anwar will get along with Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, his ally-turned-foe-turned-ally, and what role he will play in government.

Anwar, 70, smiled and waved to supporters as he walked out of hospital, dressed in a black suit and tie and his hair neatly swept back. He was surrounded by his family, lawyers and prison guards before driving to the palace for an audience with King Sultan Muhammad V.

Supporters chanted "Reformasi" (Reform), the movement he launched two decades ago to challenge diverse Malaysia's race- and patronage-based politics.

Anwar has served three years of a five-year term for sodomy, a charge he says was trumped up by the government of ousted Prime Minister Najb Razak.

Anwar a free man after royal pardon

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    Jailed Malaysian reformist Anwar Ibrahim was granted a full pardon on Wednesday and walked free from a hospital in Kuala Lumpur, capping dramatic changes in the Southeast Asian country since the government was ousted in an election upset last week.

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    In his first press conference since his release at his residence in Segambut on Wednesday (May 16), Anwar said that he was only back as a citizen.

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    "I'll be taking time off to give a series of talks in Harvard, Georgetown and a few Muslim countries," said Anwar.

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    "I've given my assurance to Mahathir and Azizah that I'm here as a concerned citizen, with complete support for them manage the affairs of the country," he said.

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    Anwar also said that as premier, Dr Mahathir had the prerogative to form the Cabinet, but added that the Prime Minister had given him assurance that he would consult party leaders before deciding on its composition.

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    Mr Anwar Ibrahim (centre) speaking to Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad at the palace, where he has been granted an audience with the King at noon.

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    Police directing traffic as Mr Anwar's convoy leaves for the palace.

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    Anwar Ibrahim greeting his supporters after being released from the Cheras Hospital Rehabilitation in Kuala Lumpur on May 16, 2018.

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    A poster of Mr Anwar by one of his supporters outside the hospital.

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    Mr Anwar Ibrahim and wife Deputy Prime Minister Wan Azizah Wan Ismail leaving Cheras Rehabilitation Hospital in Kuala Lumpur.

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    Mr Anwar Ibrahim making his way home after his release from Cheras Rehabilitation Hospital in Kuala Lumpur.

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    Anwar Ibrahim arrives at his house following his release from hospital

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    Mr Anwar Ibrahim arrives home after he was released from Cheras Rehabilitation Hospital in Kuala Lumpur.

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    Journalists and supporters of jailed former opposition leader and current federal opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim arrive at his home after his release from the Cheras Hospital Rehabilitation in Kuala Lumpur on May 16, 2018.

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Mahathir, with whom Anwar joined forces to win last Wednesday's election, was at the palace to greet him.

"The king, with the advice of the pardons board of the federal territories of Kuala Lumpur, Labuan and Putrajaya, has allowed a full pardon and given an immediate release for ... Anwar bin Ibrahim," the palace said in a statement.

Anwar had been recovering from a shoulder injury in hospital under police guard. He was Mahathir's deputy in the 1990s but fell out with his mentor during the Asian financial crisis.

He was sacked from the ruling party and founded the Reformasi movement, challenging Mahathir's government. He was later arrested and jailed on charges of sodomy and corruption.

Images at the time of a goateed, bespectacled Anwar in court with a black eye and bruises brought condemnation of Mahathir from around the world.

Anwar's trial became a spectacle, with prosecutors at one stage bringing out what they said was a semen-stained mattress allegedly used when he had sex with two male aides.

After being freed, Anwar was jailed a second time for sodomy in 2015. Both times, he and his supporters have said the charges were politically motivated.

"Many have asked me how it is that our reform movement has now joined forces with the very same former dictator, Mahathir Mohamad, who sacked my father in 1998 and saw him arrested, brutalised and incarcerated," Anwar's daughter Nurul Izzah, wrote in an article for the Guardian newspaper on Tuesday.

"My answer is simply that we must all firmly resolve to never let our nation sink to the depths it did again and prime minister Mohamad now has a rare second chance to put things right." The pardon, granted on the grounds that there was a miscarriage of justice, allows Anwar to re-enter politics immediately.

'FIGHT NOT OVER'

Under a pre-election pact, Mahathir, 92, had vowed to enable Anwar's release and eventually step aside for him to become prime minister.

On Tuesday, Mahathir said he expected to be prime minister for one or two more years, setting off talk of differences between the two.

But Anwar's wife and deputy prime minister Wan Azizah Wan Ismail told reporters later that Anwar was in no hurry to become prime minister.

"Seeing him walk free makes me emotional, but the fight is not over," said Ridzuan Ismail, an Anwar supporter at the hospital. "Now we need to see him become prime minister." Jack Seng, another supporter wearing a shirt with an image of Anwar behind bars, said he thought Mahathir and Anwar would resolve any tension between them.

"I think we need to let Mahathir do his work to save Malaysia and to get back its system of government." Differences have already appeared between supporters of Mahathir and Anwar over cabinet positions and Anwar's role.

Mahathir is the leader of the ruling alliance and Anwar's People's Justice Party (PKR) won the majority of parliamentary seats in the group.

Mahathir scores shocking win in Malaysian Election

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    Pakatan Harapan chairman Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad has officially been sworn in as Malaysia's seventh Prime Minister.

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    Dr Mahathir took his oath of office as Prime Minister before Yang di-Pertuan Agong Sultan Muhammad V at the Istana Negara at 9.57pm Thursday (May 10).

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    The 92-year-old was accompanied by his wife Tun Dr Siti Hasmah, DAP stalwart Lim Kit Siang, PKR president Datuk Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail, vice-president Nurul Izzah Anwar, Parti Amanah Negara president Mohamad Sabu and Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia president Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin.

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    This means that Dr Mahathir will be the world's oldest prime minister and the first Malaysian to be premier twice.

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    At a press conference earlier, Dr Mahathir said he would appoint Dr Wan Azizah as deputy prime minister once he is sworn in.

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    Dr Mahathir received the mandate to form the government through Pakatan, which managed to wrest 113 out of 222 federal seats in GE14.

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    Former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad speaks to reporters during a press conference at the Sheraton Petaling Jaya Hotel on 10 May 2018.

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    Mahathir Mohamad holds up a document with the signatures of alliance party leaders naming him as the prime minister during a news conference following the general election in Petaling Jaya, Malaysia, May 10, 2018.

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    Najib leaves after a news conference on May 10.

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    Malaysia's outgoing Prime Minister Najib Razak (R) speaks during a press conference in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, 10 May 2018.

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    Mahathir's stunning defeat of the coalition that has ruled the Southeast Asian country since independence from Britain six decades ago means that, at the age of 92, he will become the oldest elected leader in the world.

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    Official results showed that Mahathir's Pakatan Harapan (Alliance of Hope) had won 113 of parliament's 222 seats, clinching the simple majority required to rule.

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    Najib's ruling coalition, Barisan Nasional (BN), had 79. Pic: Barisan Nasional party members watch election results updates at the Barisan Nasional coalition headquarters in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, on Wednesday, May 9, 2018.

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    Supporters of Mahathir Mohamad, former Malaysian prime minister and opposition candidate for Pakatan Harapan (Alliance of Hope), celebrate outside the hotel, where Mahathir Mohamad held news conference, in Petaling Jaya, Malaysia, May 10, 2018.

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    Mahathir told a news conference he expected to be sworn in as prime minister later on Thursday.

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    Few had expected Mahathir to prevail against a coalition that has long relied on the support of the country's ethnic-Malay majority.

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    Mahathir has promised to seek a royal pardon for Anwar if they won the election and, once Anwar is free, to step aside and let him become prime minister.

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    Ethnic-Malay Muslims have long tended to support BN for affirmative-action policies that give them government contracts, cheap housing and guaranteed university admissions.

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    Mahathir's alliance, which counts on urban votes and support from the minority ethnic Chinese and Indian communities, had hoped the veteran Malay leader would win over voters usually loyal to BN. That strategy appeared to have paid off.

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    Mahathir's opposition wrested control of key states Johor and Kedah, and reduced BN's grip in strongholds like Sarawak.

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    Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad arrives at SK Titi Gajah in Alor Setar at 10.55am to cast his vote.

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    The Election Commission said voter turnout was at 55 percent out of the total 14,449,200 voters in GE14 as of 1pm on May 9.

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    Dr Mahathir Mohamad is keeping a positive outlook on voter turnout throughout the day.

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    By 5pm May 9, some 70 per cent of voters had cast their ballots for what has been dubbed "the mother of all elections". The latest polls show a neck-and-neck race to the finish for ruling coalition Barisan Nasional (BN) and opposition pact Pakatan Harapan (PH).

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    Voters still queuing up within the compounds of polling stations nationwide for GE14 were not allowed to vote after the 5pm cut-off time but any voter affected can file a petition to demand a re-election.

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    Malaysian Prime Minister Najib votes at a polling station during the 14th general elections in Pekan on May 9, 2018.

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    Malaysians went to the polls on May 9 in one of the country's closest ever elections which pits scandal-hit Prime Minister Najib Razak against his one-time mentor, a 92-year-old former authoritarian leader.

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    The Barisan Nasional chairman arrived at his polling station Sekolah Sains Sultan Ahmad Shah at 9.20 am together with his wife Datin Seri Rosmah Mansor. Najib was all smiles when he was greeted by other voters who were present at the station.

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    9.29am: PKR president Datuk Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail voted in SK Seri Penanti in Permatang Pauh. After casting her vote, she immediately left and returned to Selangor where she is contesting for Pandan parliamentary seat there.

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    The Barisan chief is in a four-cornered fight for the Pekan seat. (Pic) Barisan Nasional deputy chairman Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi and his wife Datin Seri Hamidah Khamis successfully cast their ballots at the Madrasah Manbail Ulum voting centre at Sungai Nipah Darat.

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    Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai and Datin Seri Lee Sun Loo cast their vote at SK Sulaiman in Bentong.

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    PAS president Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang, who is defending his Marang parliamentary seat, arrives at SK Rusila in Marang to cast his ballot.

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    EC staff making final preparations at a polling station at Stadium Titiwangsa in Kuala Lumpur.

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    An instruction notice for voters is seen at a voting center on the eve of the 14th general election in Pekan, Pahang on May 8, 2018.

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    Malaysia's Prime Minister Najib Razak (C) offers special prayers a day before the 14th general election at a mosque in Pekan, Pahang, Malaysia, May 8, 2018.

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    Women vote during the general election in Alor Setar, Malaysia, May 9, 2018.

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    People boarding buses back to Malaysia. at Singapore's Golden Mile complex on May 8.

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    Supporters listen to a speech by former Malaysian PM Mahathir Mohamad

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    This picture taken on May 8, 2018 shows Malaysians gathering at an election rally in Petaling Jaya to watch a telecast of 92-year-old former authoritarian leader Mahathir Mohamad.

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    Voters queue up in the early morning to cast their ballots at a polling station during the 14th general election in Alor Setar on May 9, 2018.

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"The base case is that Mahathir passes the baton to Anwar. But Mahathir may be reluctant to hand over to his former nemesis, and if he drags his feet other scenarios could come into play," said Peter Mumford of the Eurasia Group in a research note.

Mahathir is also racing ahead with an investigation into graft at 1Malaysia Development Berhad ( 1MDB), a state fund founded by the ousted Najib that is sunk in a multi-billion-dollar graft scandal.

Mahathir has replaced the attorney-general and officials at the anti-graft agency, in what appears to be a purge of people seen as close to the former premier.

Najib and his wife, Rosmah Mansor, have been barred from leaving the country. Najib denies wrongdoing.

"It looks very likely that Najib will face the full force of the law," said Adib Zalkapli, a Kuala Lumpur-based analyst with risk consultancy Vriens & Partners.

"Just last week nobody would have thought that this posh boarding school boy would be rear ended by his old political headmaster," he said.

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