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Malaysia

Malaysian PM Mahathir Mohamad and Anwar Ibrahim campaign together for the first time in 20 years

Anwar was once a high-flying member of the former ruling coalition but was convicted of homosexual sodomy and corruption after a power struggle in 1998 with Mahathir

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 09 October, 2018, 8:18am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 09 October, 2018, 10:10pm

Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad campaigned on Monday for his designated successor and former foe Anwar Ibrahim, urging voters to support Anwar’s return to active politics.

Mahathir’s appearance at a late-night political rally marked the first time in two decades that the two leaders shared the same stage, after setting aside a bitter political feud to form an alliance that won a stunning victory in May 9 national elections.

Mahathir, 93, was elected a second time to become the world’s oldest leader in the country’s first transition of power since independence from Britain in 1957. Anwar couldn’t participate in the polls due to a 2015 conviction for sodomy that he alleged was politically motivated, but he was freed and pardoned by King Muhammad V days after the general elections.

Anwar faces six other candidates but is expected to easily win Sunday’s parliamentary by-election to fill a vacant seat for the southern coastal town of Port Dickson in his bid to return to parliament and prepare for his eventual takeover from Mahathir.

Mahathir had earlier said he would not go to Port Dickson to campaign for Anwar because the race was a minor by-election – but changed his mind in a move that appeared symbolic to show that the past conflict between the two former rivals had been buried.

I hope that we can continue to work together … not for Mahathir or Anwar but for our beloved country
Mahathir Mohamad

“I hope that in this by-election, victory will be given to the Alliance of Hope, to Anwar. I hope that we can continue to work together … not for Mahathir or Anwar but for our beloved country,” Mahathir told about 2,000 people seated in a large tent for the rally. Dozens of others with umbrellas stood outside because the tent was packed.

Mahathir’s spoke little about Anwar, using most of his speech to promote a united government to tackle huge national debts due to massive corruption under the previous government.

Anwar was once a high-flying member of the former ruling coalition but was convicted of homosexual sodomy and corruption after a power struggle in 1998 with Mahathir, who was prime minister for 22 years until 2003. Anwar was freed in 2004 and convicted again in 2015 of sodomy – charges he said were concocted to destroy his political career.

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Angered by a monumental graft scandal at a state investment fund, Mahathir made a political comeback and the two forged a new opposition alliance in a gamble that paid off in May polls.

Anwar, in his speech, paid tribute to Mahathir as a statesman who helped save the country from the brink of economic destruction. He reiterated that he will focus on parliamentary reforms and has no intention of interfering with Mahathir’s governance.

“In this current situation, it is better for Mahathir to lead the country. I say this with all humility. I love him as a father and as a leader. I fought against him and now I accept that he is the best man to lead Malaysia now,” Anwar said.

Mahathir has said he expects to be in office for at least two years and will keep his promise to hand over power to Anwar.