KUALA LUMPUR: Jailed Malaysian reformist Anwar Ibrahim was granted a full pardon and freed on Wednesday, 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 the new government.
Anwar, 70, said he would like to take time off with his family and did not intend to join the cabinet any time soon. He said he would support the government led by Mahathir and Deputy Prime Minister Wan Azizah Wan Ismail, who is Anwar’s wife.
“I’ve told Tun Mahathir, I don’t need to serve in the cabinet for now,” Anwar said, using an honorific for the prime minister.
Anwar has been in the hospital for some months, for surgery on a shoulder. But he looked in fine fettle as he walked free for the first time in three years, dressed in a black suit and tie, his hair neatly swept back.
Supporters chanted “Reformasi” (Reform), the movement he launched two decades ago to challenge diverse Malaysia’s race- and patronage-based politics.
Anwar was sentenced in 2015 to a five-year term for sodomy, a charge he says was trumped up by the government of ousted Prime Minister Najib Razak.
Mahathir, with whom Anwar joined forces to win last Wednesday’s election, greeted him at the palace where they both met the king.