Strange things are happening in Malaysia; strange things sometimes do. At the ripe age of 92, the very election of Mahathir Mohamad as the world’s oldest Prime Minister signifies what in judicial terminology is the rarest of the rare… in the political narrative.
That development was reinforced on Friday with yet another spin on the country’s election drama when he announced plans for a royal pardon for Anwar Ibrahim ~ the former ally who was sacked and jailed when Mahathir was previously in power and who could now become his successor.
There is little doubt that royalty has readily concurred with his plan of action, one that reaffirms the truism that there are no permanent enemies in politics ~ “The king has indicated he is willing to pardon Anwar immediately,” said Mahathir. “We will begin the proper process of obtaining a pardon.
This means a full pardon. He should be released immediately when he is pardoned.” Malaysia today bears witness to a quirk of history, if ever there was one. Indeed, the unlikely alliance of Mahathir and Anwar has been one of the many odd aspects of this election.
When Mahathir was Prime Minister the first time between 1981 and 2003, Anwar was his protege and deputy, tipped for the top job until Mahathir thought he was becoming too powerful.
After prosecution for corruption and sodomy that was widely believed to be politically motivated, he was jailed in 1999. But this year, in a bid to remove Najib Razak, who has been accused of a $3.2 billion corruption scandal, Mahathir joined the opposition and agreed to run as its leader.
He has now sought a royal pardon for Anwar ~ who is still languishing behind bars on a second charge of sodomy ~ and then make way for him to become Prime Minister. Almost incredible must be the swingback in Malaysian politics, verily an electoral earthquake.
Theoretically, Mahathir’s election had posited him to effect what in political science is called the “second act in politics”. If indeed Anwar Ibrahim helms the government in due course of time, Mahathir will sacrifice the chance to right the wrongs that he was responsible for.
He won by defeating the party he led for over two decades, ending the career of his former protege, Najib Razak. The United Malays National Organisation (UMNO) has ruled the country since its independence 61 years ago.
The opposition, that Dr Mahathir now leads, was originally formed to oppose his own autocratic rule. He has let it be known that he will assume power… only to hand it over to a “former apprentice” who was jailed after the two fell out and still remains behind bars.
It is open to question whether Anwar Ibrahim will reverse the draconian laws designed to shackle journalists who had exposed corruption. It is difficult to fathom the intricacies of the twists and turns of Malaysia’s politics. Suffice it to register that the country is on the turn.