KUALA LUMPUR: Reformist Anwar Ibrahim declared a “new dawn for Malaysia” Wednesday after his release from prison paved the way for a return to national politics as presumptive successor to Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad following a stunning election upset.
In scenes that captivated Malaysians, the charismatic 70-year-old returned to the national spotlight after the country’s king quashed a widely criticised sodomy conviction that had put Anwar behind bars for three years.To ecstatic cries of “Reformasi!” (Reform) — Anwar’s rallying cry—he took selfies with his former prison guards and vowed before hundreds of journalists and supporters to back efforts to take the country in a new direction.
Anwar said he had forgiven Mahathir, 92, who had him imprisoned two decades ago but has become his unlikely ally.
“Now there is a new dawn for Malaysia,” said Anwar, flanked by his wife Wan Azizah Wan Ismail and other members of his political party. “The entire spectrum of Malaysians, regardless of race or religion, have stood by the principles of democracy and freedom. They demand change.”
Anwar has cast a long shadow over Malaysian politics for decades. He enjoyed a meteoric rise in the now-ousted Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition before a spectacular falling out with his then-boss Mahathir in 1998 that saw Anwar thrown in jail for sodomy and abuse of power.