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article imageMalaysia's Anwar to seek return to frontline politics next month

By AFP     Sep 20, 2018 in World

Malaysia's leader-in-waiting Anwar Ibrahim will seek to return to frontline politics by contesting a local election to become a lawmaker next month, officials said Thursday, a key step on his journey from prison to the premiership.

Anwar, whose alliance won a shock election victory in May, is expected to easily win the October 13 poll which was triggered after an MP quit parliament to open up a seat for the veteran politician.

Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, 93, has pledged to step aside within two years to hand power to Anwar, his former nemesis with whom he teamed up to oust scandal-plagued Najib Razak and his long-ruling coalition at the election.

Following the poll, Anwar, 71, received a royal pardon to allow his release from prison where he was serving a sentence for breaking laws against sodomy in a case that his supporters said was politically motivated.

He needs to be elected to parliament to qualify to succeed Mahathir. Danyal Balagopal Abdullah from his People's Justice Party in the Port Dickson constituency, south of the capital Kuala Lumpur, quit parliament last week to open up a spot for him.

The Election Commission set the date for the by-election for October 13, with campaigning to begin on September 29, official news agency Bernama reported.

Once tipped as Mahathir's successor in the 1990s, ex-deputy premier Anwar fell out bitterly with his former boss, leading to his jailing on charges of sodomy and corruption in 1999. He was released but later jailed again for sodomy in 2015 during Najib's rule.

Anwar forged an unexpected alliance with Mahathir to challenge the then-ruling Barisan Nasional coalition after Najib became embroiled in a scandal surrounding state fund 1MDB. Najib has arrested and charged over the scandal since his poll defeat.

Ibrahim Suffian, who heads independent polling firm Merdeka Centre, told AFP that Anwar would likely win the poll race easily. He added that he believed Mahathir would likely keep to the power handover deal, "so long as the goodwill between him and Anwar remains".

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