Malaysia’s new prime minister Mahathir says king willing to grant full pardon for Anwar

Malaysian Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad (centre) speaking at a press conference after a Pakatan Harapan presidential council meeting on May 11, 2018.
The Straits Times

KUALA LUMPUR – Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad said on Friday (May 11) the country’s monarch had indicated he was willing to grant a full pardon to jailed politician Anwar Ibrahim.

Speaking at a news conference, Mahathir also said he would announce a 10-member cabinet on Saturday, including ministers for finance, defense and home affairs.

Anwar and Mahathir, former allies and then implacable foes, joined hands to contest this week’s election and oust the administration of Najib Razak. Anwar is in custody on charges of sodomy and corruption and cannot take any office until he is pardoned and released.

Mahathir has said he will step aside and hand over the prime minister’s post to Anwar once he is pardoned.

Now the world’s oldest elected leader, Mahathir, 92, was sworn into office by Malaysia’s constitutional monarch late on Thursday.

At his first press conference after the ceremony, Mahathir reassured the financial community that he would prioritize stabilizing the economy and return billions of dollars lost in a graft scandal at state fund 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB).

The scandal became a major factor in the election and in the ouster of Najib Razak, Mahathir’s predecessor and former protege.

Malaysian markets were closed and will reopen on Monday, but overseas investors were nervous about Najib’s ouster after a decade in office.

Malaysia’s 5-year credit default swaps, the cost to insure against a Malaysia debt default in the next five years, climbed to an 11-month peak in late U.S. trading on Thursday.

But calm returned to offshore trading of the ringgit currency, which lost four percent on Thursday.

Mahathir, dubbed the “Father of Modern Malaysia” during his previous 22 years in power until 2003, told reporters at the news conference he would try to make the ringgit as steady as possible but did not announce any policy moves.

He was known for his strongarm, sometimes pugnacious style of rule, marked by an intolerance for dissent, from 1981 to 2003, but also for transforming his Southeast Asian country from a sleepy backwater into a modern industrialized nation.