Malaysia begins by-election vote to pave Anwar’s return

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International desk: Anwar Ibrahim set his sights on a return to frontline Malaysian politics Saturday as voting began in a by-election poll likely to seal the once jailed opposition figure’s remarkable political resurrection.

Winning the seat is a key requirement for Anwar to succeed 93-year-old Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, who jailed his former protege and heir apparent on sodomy and corruption charges in 1998 when their relationship soured.

Mahathir returned to the premiership this year after a shock election win, saying he would stay in power for only two years before handing the reins to Anwar.

Anwar was in prison when he forged an unlikely alliance with Mahathir in a bid to unseat then prime minister Najib Razak, who had called elections for May amid massive corruption allegations.

Underscoring the drama of Saturday’s vote, one of Anwar’s six challengers is a former aide who also accused the then-opposition leader of sodomy, landing the 71-year-old in jail for a second time in 2014.

But the charismatic politician is expected to eke out an easy win in the seat, which was vacated after a member of the ruling coalition stepped down to pave Anwar’s return.

Polls opened under cloudy skies at 8:00 am (0000 GMT) in the sleepy southern coastal town of Port Dickson, home to a sizeable ethnic Chinese community that across the country has traditionally been one of Anwar’s pillars of support.

“We are voting for the next premier. We need an influential leader to bring long-overdue progress to Port Dickson,” said 60-year-old voter Lee Tian Hock.

“This morning, I prayed to Allah for a big win for Anwar,” retired truck driver Mat Taib, a member of the country’s ethnic Malay majority, told AFP.

“I want him to be our eighth prime minister.”

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