Malaysian opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim freed from jail

Malaysia's opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim speaks during an election campaign in Kuala Lumpur

Malaysia's opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim speaks during an election campaign in Kuala Lumpur

For many Malaysians, it has been surreal to see Datuk Seri Dr Wan Azizah sharing the same stage with Tun Dr Mahathir, the man who first put her husband in jail back in 1998, in what was seen as a politically-motivated move.

Jailed Malaysian politician Anwar Ibrahim walked free on Wednesday after receiving a royal pardon, paving the way for his return to national politics as the presumptive successor to Prime Minister Mahathir Mohammed following a stunning election upset.

Anwar was previously scheduled to be released on June 8.

Anwar has spent eight of the past 20 years in prison on politically-motivated sodomy charges, and as his one-time rival, Mahathir Mohamad, secured a remarkable election victory six days ago, he was in hospital recovering from shoulder surgery.

The pardon potentially paves the way for him to succeed the country's elderly new leader Mahathir Mohamad, who was the surprise victor over former Prime Minister Najib Razak in last week's parliamentary election.

On Monday, Datuk Ahmad Dahlan Ab Aziz, Comptroller of the Royal Household, said Malaysia's King Sultan Muhammad V had consented that all procedures regarding the Pardons Board proceedings on Mr Anwar be finalised on May 16.

However, for Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim it was essential for PKR to work with Dr Mahathir to remove Barisan Nasional from Federal power, the Sydney Morning Herald reports. He was then convicted and jailed again for a second five year on a second trumped up sodomy charge during the rule of Najib.

"My children were quite young during the earlier period of incarceration [from 1999 to 2003] and that was a hard period for them and [his wife, new deputy prime minister Wan] Azizah", he said.

His freedom is expected to ease fears of a growing rift within the newly formed coalition government, after differences erupted between supporters of Mahathir and Anwar over cabinet positions and Anwar's role in the party.

Until then, Anwar will first need to be elected into parliament. Anwar's wife, Wan Azizah Wan Ismail, endorsed Mahathir and served as his deputy in the coalition to oust Najib. There are no by-elections planned but it is thought Wan Azizah may step aside for Anwar.

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