KUALA LUMPUR (Reuters) - Supporters began gathering on Thursday at the hospital from where jailed Malaysian reformist leader Anwar Ibrahim is expected to walk free just a week after his alliance scored a shock victory in a general election.
Devamacar Arumugam, 45, a woman wearing a sari made up of Anwar’s People’s Justice Party (PKR) flags, said she waited all day on Tuesday and was back just after dawn on Wednesday to see him free. “Today, I am very happy,” she said.
Anwar joined forces with his old ally-turned-foe-turned ally, 92-year-old Mahathir Mohamad, to oust scandal-tainted former premier Najib Razak. Mahathir, who is now prime minister for a second stint, had vowed to enable Anwar’s release and eventually step aside for him to become the prime minister.
Anwar, 70, has been recovering from a shoulder injury in the hospital under police guard.
A royal pardons board is set to meet at 11 a.m. (0300 GMT) to clear his release. PKR party leader Mohamed Azmin Ali told reporters outside the hospital that Anwar and his wife Wan Azizah Wan Ismail will go to the palace after that for an audience with the king, Sultan Muhammad V.
Anwar is seeking a royal pardon on the grounds of ‘miscarriage of justice’, which would reverse his conviction and make him eligible to actively participate in politics.
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.
Mahathir is the leader of the ruling alliance and Anwar’s PKR won the majority of parliamentary seats in the group.
The volatile relationship between Mahathir and Anwar has dominated Malaysia’s political landscape for over three decades and is central to the future of the alliance.
Ob Tuesday, Mahathir said he expected to be prime minister for one or two more years.
“I am disappointed because I had hoped he could be prime minister as soon as possible,” said Talib Ibrahim, an Anwar supporter outside the hospital. Wearing a white shirt printed with a photograph of Anwar and the words “March 2 Freedom”, he said he nevertheless believed Anwar and Mahathir could work together and that the alliance’s prospects were good.
Reporting by Joseph Sipalan and Tom Westbrook; Writing by Praveen Menon; Editing by Raju Gopalakrishnan