Anwar Ibrahim’s personal political history as well as his history with veteran Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad is more intriguing that most works of fiction.
After becoming Prime Minister for the first time in 1983, Mahathir Mohamad ushered in an economic boom in Malaysia that is crediting with bringing the country an erstwhile unknown period of prosperity and infrastructural growth. Beginning in 1993 Anwar Ibrahim became Mahathir Mohamad’s influential deputy and continued to expand Malaysia’s economy through radical reforms. For much the 80s and into the 1990s, Mahathir Mohamad and Anwar Ibrahim were seen as a political ‘dream team’ that helped to revitalise the country. However, in 1998 Mahathir and Anwar famously fell out amidst accusations that Anwar engaged in political corruption and had performed acts of sodomy (a criminal offence in Malaysia whether consensual or otherwise).
Since 1999, Anwar has been in and out and prison due to courts being engaged in a tug of war in respect of affirming or overturning the initial convictions against Anwar for corruption and sodomy. During such periods, Anwar has spoken in favour of even greater economic modernisation and has remained deeply critical of affirmative action legislation that remains on the books even after Mahathir’s initial reforms.
In 2008, Anwar faced fresh accusations of sodomy and after a series of competing verdicts in various appellate courts, he was eventually jailed again in 2015.
Prior to this years general election, Anwar’s wife and Mahathir made a pact of reconciliation. As part of this agreement, Mahathir would ask the constitutional monarch for Anwar’s pardon which would then pave the way for him to re-enter parliament, assuming that Mahathir’s alliance won the hotly contested vote.
The results of the election saw the Mahathir led Pakatan Harapan alliance oust the ruling coalition led by the legacy party United Malays National Organisation (UMNO). As the UMNO had been in power without pause since Malaysia’s independence in 1957, the election was historic both for its triumph in creating party political pluralism as well as for the fact that at the age of 92, Malaysia’s longest serving Prime Minister was back at the helm of government.
In May of this year, Anwar Ibrahim was set free from prison and given a full pardon by Malaysia’s monarch after partly serving the second of two major prison sentences which have dogged the politicians career for decades. Today, after five months as a free man, Anwar has re-entered Malaysia’s Parliament where he is expected to take over at the helm of government when the presently 93 year old Mahathir plans to retire in the year 2020.
Anwar who was once the young ‘next big thing’ in Malaysian politics is at the age of 71 once again the heir to his mentor Mahathir decades after a very public falling out. Anwar’s political rehabilitation is itself emblematic of a new era in Malaysian politics where reconciled familiar faces are leading a new coalition on the forward thinking and economically open yet prudent model that Mahathir first pioneered during Malaysia’s first ever economic boom in the 1980s.