Anwar to be pardoned in post-election Malaysia

Jailed opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim walks out from a court house in Kuala Lumpur. Malaysia’s king has agreed to pardon jailed opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim immediately, Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad said. (AFP)
Updated 11 May 2018

Anwar to be pardoned in post-election Malaysia

  • Mahathir was sworn in as the seventh prime minister of Malaysia after waiting for more than four hours at the royal palace

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia’s king has promised to pardon Anwar Ibrahim and grant him an immediate release from his prison sentence. 

It follows the shock turn of events this week in which the Mahathir-led Alliance of Hope (PH) coalition ended the six-decade Barisan Nasional (BN) rule in Malaysia politics.

The surprise win by PH has led to Mahathir, the 92-year-old statesman, promising the release of his former rival Anwar Ibrahim and his entry into politics. 

At a press conference after PH was the surprise victor in the 14th general elections, Mahathir said that the Malaysian monarch “has indicated he is willing to pardon Anwar immediately.”

Mahathir said that the king would give a full pardon and grant an immediate release from prison. “He (Anwar) will be free to participate fully in politics,” he said.

At the same conference, Wan Azizah, Anwar’s wife, said that once pardoned, “If the director of prisons is satisfied … then (Anwar Ibrahim) may be released in two to three days.”

The political prisoner has spent almost two decades behind bars under the BN regime. He was sacked in 1998 by Mahathir and subsequently accused of sodomy and corruption. Many human rights groups and analysts viewed this as a political chess-play to prevent Anwar from taking power.

Nizam, 29, a former member of Malaysia’s youth parliament, told Arab News: “Anwar’s pardon and other commissions are litmus tests of sort. How Mahathir conducts these acts will be scrutinized.” 

He added that the request for Anwar’s pardon and the procedure must follow the rule of law.

Since 1998, the prime-minister-in-waiting has been fighting tirelessly through the Reformation movement, including the formation of the People’s Justice Party (Keadilan). Popular among younger voters, Anwar represents the new face of Malaysia.

Han Yang, 33, a masters student at Notthingham University, said: “Mahathir has helped to reunite Pakatan under his strong leadership.” He added that the 92-year-old prime minister had played a role in calming down PH and stating focused on forming the new government.

“I think Mahathir is a good replacement for Anwar for now until his release,” Han Yang said.

On Thursday the nation saw Mahathir sworn in as the seventh prime minister of Malaysia after waiting for more than four hours at the royal palace. Mahathir promised that the new government would abide by “the rule of law and the constitution.”

“Mahathir has no choice but to leave power (to Anwar) but we don’t know the time frame for that,” Dr. Sophie Lemiere, a postdoctoral fellow at Harvard University, told Arab News.

She said that in the meantime Mahathir plays a crucial role in the new administration in offering a stable transition.

“He is a superhuman, he wants to enjoy a bit longer the miracle,” Dr. Lemiere said.

Meanwhile, the mood on the streets and on social media was jubilant after six decades of authoritarian rule by one party.

Roslan Buja, 34, a lecturer at a local university, said: “I am happy that PH won and Dr. Mahathir is the prime minister. We want a country that is clear from corruption and the misuse of power. I prefer our country to have checks and balances, like the US, UK and Japan.”

From East Malaysia, Buja, is among the many young Sarawakians reclaiming their political identity in 21st- century Malaysia. 

 “As a Sarawakian, my hope is to see Borneo’s narrative included in the national discourse, and I hope whoever leads this federation remembers that,” Buja said.

In the coming days, the PH-led government will pave the way with the announcement of a new lineup of the Cabinet and put an end to the culture of “cash is king” in the country.

“The entire political culture (of the institutions) needs to be change, that would take a bit of time,” Dr. Lemiere said. 

This includes the civil service. She said that civil servants “have to learn that in a real democracy they are serving the people; they are no longer serving the sole interest of the prime minister.”

The transition period will witness an overhaul of the country’s institutions and previous approaches to corruption. 

One major focus will be scrutiny of the 1MDB investment fund corruption scandal by the previous government. Part of the newly appointed prime minister’s plan is to appoint a finance ministry adviser who will oversee efforts to recover the country’s billion-dollar state fund. 

“The BN account should be frozen and Najib should be barred from leaving Malaysia,” said Roslan Buja, who was eager to see a new dawn in Malaysian politics.

Sanders wins decisively in Nevada, Biden headed for second-place finish

Updated 10 min 12 sec ago

Sanders wins decisively in Nevada, Biden headed for second-place finish

  • Self-described democratic socialist, Sanders was backed by a diverse coalition of voters
  • The race now begins to broaden across the country, with the next primary on Feb. 29 in South Carolina

LAS VEGAS: Bernie Sanders strengthened his front-runner position for the Democratic presidential nomination with a decisive victory in the Nevada caucuses on Saturday, while Joe Biden was on track for a second-place finish that would give his struggling campaign new hope.
A self-described democratic socialist, Sanders was backed by a diverse coalition of young and middle-aged voters, Latinos, union members and white college-educated women for the win in Nevada, according to Edison Research, showing signs of expanding support for his surging campaign beyond his longstanding core.
“We have put together a multi-generational, multiracial coalition that is going to not only win in Nevada, it’s going to sweep the country,” Sanders, a US senator from Vermont, told cheering supporters in San Antonio, Texas.
Biden, a former vice president, appeared to score a badly needed strong finish after poor showings in the first two contests in Iowa and New Hampshire for the party’s nomination to face Republican President Donald Trump in the November election.
Sanders’ triumph in the first racially diverse state suggests his unapologetic message of social and economic justice, including his signature pledge to provide universal health care for all Americans, is resonating with a broader coalition of Democratic voters.
For Biden and other moderates who argue that Sanders is too liberal to beat Trump and who have been trying to blunt his momentum, however, the job has become much harder.
Sanders had 47% of the county convention delegates in Nevada with 50% of the precincts reported. Biden was a distant second to Sanders with 19%, but ahead of former Mayor Pete Buttigieg of South Bend, Indiana, in third place with 15%.
“The press is ready to declare people dead quickly, but we’re alive and we’re coming back and we’re gonna win,” Biden told supporters in Las Vegas on Saturday night.
Senator Elizabeth Warren, who had been looking to jump-start her campaign after poor finishes in the first two states, was again trailing in a disappointing fourth with more than 10% in Nevada, where voters poured into more than 250 sites around the state. Senator Amy Klobuchar and activist billionaire Tom Steyer were well back at around 4%.
Buttigieg cautioned Democrats about nominating Sanders, portraying him as an ideologue.
“We can prioritize either ideological purity or inclusive victory. We can either call people names online or we can call them into our movement. We can either tighten a narrow and hardcore base or open the tent to a new, broad, big-hearted American coalition,” Buttigieg told supporters in Las Vegas.
Despite another poor showing in Nevada, Warren said she got a boost in fundraising and support from an aggressive debate performance on Wednesday — which came too late to affect early voting in the state.
“We have a lot of states to go, and right now I can feel the momentum,” Warren said at a rally in Seattle.
The race now begins to broaden across the country, with the next primary on Feb. 29 in South Carolina, followed by the Super Tuesday contests in 14 states on March 3 that pick more than one-third of the pledged delegates who will help select a Democratic nominee.

Bloomberg looms in race
Biden, vice president under former President Barack Obama, is counting on a strong showing in South Carolina, which has a large bloc of black voters. In Nevada, entrance polls showed Biden led among African Americans with 36%, followed by Sanders with 27%.
The Super Tuesday states will bring former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who has not been competing in the four early voting states but has been rising in opinion polls, into the race.
“The Nevada results reinforce the reality that this fragmented field is putting Bernie Sanders on pace to amass an insurmountable delegate lead,” Bloomberg campaign manager Kevin Sheekey said in a statement.
On Twitter, Trump appeared to be enjoying the Democratic race.
“Looks like Crazy Bernie is doing well in the Great State of Nevada. Biden & the rest look weak, & no way Mini Mike,” Trump wrote, the last a reference to Bloomberg.
Nevada caucus officials and voters at multiple sites on Saturday reported voting rules confusion, calculation glitches and delays in reporting tallies — despite efforts to avoid the issues that plagued Iowa’s caucuses earlier this month.
After a technical meltdown delayed results in Iowa, state officials promised a revised reporting system using a telephone hotline and photos of caucus reporting sheets would ensure a smoother process. Nevertheless, precinct chairs at some caucuses experienced long waits on the phone lines.
In the final result of a caucus at the famed Bellagio hotel on the Las Vegas strip, Sanders finished with 76 votes, Biden had 45 and no other candidate ended with a vote.
Workers at the hotel, who are members of the Culinary Workers Union, streamed out of the caucus after backing Sanders despite their leadership expressing reservations about his health care plan.
“I went for Bernie. I’m not big into politics, but I like the things he’s going for: student loan debt, schools, free health care,” said Aleiza Smith, 22, a housekeeper at the Bellagio.
Sanders was aided in Nevada by strong support from the six in 10 voters who said they backed a government-run Medicare for All, the Edison entrance poll showed.
It showed that Sanders led across all age groups except for those older than 65. Around 54% of Latino voters said they backed him, while 24% of college-educated white women and 34% of those who have a union member in their families supported him.