PORT DICKSON, Malaysia - Malaysia's Anwar Ibrahim faces the first test of his return to political life on Saturday, in a by-election that would pave his way to claiming the premiership, as promised by prime minister and former foe Mahathir Mohamad.
Anwar, who is expected to win, needs a strong mandate in the fight in the coastal seat of Port Dickson to counter criticism that he is in a hurry to take over from the 93-year-old Mahathir, just five months after being released from prison.
"A bigger margin will give the by-election the appearance of a coronation, something Anwar has been awaiting for 20 years," said Adib Zalkapli, an analyst with political risk consulting firm Vriens & Partners.
"If he wins by a smaller margin, he may be seen as merely riding on the popularity of Mahathir, without winning new support to the coalition."
Mahathir led the Pakatan Harapan, or Alliance of Hope, coalition to a shock victory in a general election in May, unseating his former protege Najib Razak and ending the 61-year rule of the Barisan Nasional coalition.