Malaysian king to pardon Anwar Ibrahim, informs PM Mahathir Mohamad

MalaysiaUpdated: May 11, 2018, 12:51 PM IST

Mahathir Mohamad. Photograph:(Reuters)

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Mahathir was sworn in Thursday, becoming the world's oldest elected leader at 92. 

Malaysia's king has agreed to pardon Anwar Ibrahim, the country's newly installed prime minister said Friday, paving the way for the jailed opposition leader to return to politics and potentially become premier.

It was the latest dramatic development after Mahathir Mohamad's opposition alliance inflicted a shock defeat on the long-ruling Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition, ending the corruption-riddled regime's six-decade stranglehold on power.

Mahathir was sworn in Thursday, becoming the world's oldest elected leader at 92. 

Mahathir, who had ruled with an iron fist for over two decades before retiring in 2003, cut ties with BN due to allegations that the party's leader and his ex-protege Najib Razak oversaw the pillaging of sovereign wealth fund 1MDB. 

The elderly politician joined forces with opposition parties that opposed him while in power and agreed that if elected, he would hand over the premiership to Anwar, his former nemesis. 

Mahathir has previously said he would likely remain prime minister for two to three years, before transferring power to Anwar. 

Anwar, from the People's Justice Party, is a key long-time leader of the opposition alliance.

One of Malaysia's most charismatic politicians, he was heir-apparent to the premiership until Mahathir sacked him in 1998 and he was subsequently jailed for sodomy and abuse of power. 

But in a remarkable turnaround, the pair reconciled and joined forces as allegations mounted over 1MDB and Najib became increasingly authoritarian, jailing opponents and introducing laws to stifle dissent. 

Anwar, now 70, was jailed again in 2015 during Najib's rule, and had been due out next month.

But Mahathir told a press conference that King Sultan Muhammad V, in a meeting with opposition leaders, had indicated he was willing to grant Anwar a royal pardon immediately.

The royal pardon would mean he could return to politics straight away. Without it, he would be banned from political life for five years.

"We will begin the... proper process of obtaining a pardon," Mahathir told reporters. "He should be released immediately when he is pardoned."

Mahathir also announced that 10 cabinet positions would be filled on Saturday, including finance, defence and foreign affairs.

Asked about 1MDB, he accused Attorney-General Mohamed Ali Apandi -- who cleared Najib over the scandal -- of having "undermined his own credibility".

"He in fact has hidden evidence of wrongdoing and that is wrong in law," he said. "Our intention is to go for people who have shown a tendency to be corrupt or who had committed known corrupt crimes."