Malaysian politician Anwar Ibrahim has won a parliamentary seat in a by-election that sets the stage for his eventual takeover from Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad.
The Election Commission said on Saturday that Anwar got a total of 31,016representing a total of 71 percent of the total votes cast, defeating six other candidates.
“I am happy with the results,” Anwar said after the victory, which marks the charismatic politician’s political comeback from prison to parliament.
“This to my mind is an important milestone, a vote of confidence for the government and the reform agenda, and the prime minister personally,” he said.
Anwar is expected to be sworn in as a legislator on Monday.
The 71-year-old is the designated successor to former foe-turned ally Mahathir, after they set aside a bitter political feud and joined hands to win a stunning victory in May’s general elections.
Mahathir, 93, returned to the prime minister post after the shock win, unseating Najib Razak, who was accused of massive corruption.
Anwar could not participate in the polls due to a 2015 conviction for sodomy – a charge he alleged was politically motivated – but he was freed after receiving a royal pardon days after the polls.
He campaigned hard over the past two weeks to secure a mandate in the multi-racial constituency of Port Dickson, promising voters development, clean government and a boost to local tourism.
The multi-billion-dollar graft scandal at state fund 1MDB, over which Najib and his wife Rosmah Mansor face dozens of corruption charges, was also at the centre of Anwar’s campaign.
“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.”
Political heavyweights including Mahathir have campaigned for Anwar in a road back to office that was unthinkable even six months ago.
The duo went onstage together at one campaign event, prompting wild cheers from supporters.