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Malaysian Politician Anwar Walks Out of Hospital as Pardon Looms

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Malaysian politician Anwar Ibrahim is a free man after more than three years in jail, receiving a royal pardon after his coalition’s shock election win last week. Still, it’s unlikely he will take over as premier anytime soon.

Anwar walked late morning from a hospital where he’d been receiving treatment, and was pardoned shortly afterward by the King for a sodomy conviction. Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad — Anwar’s coalition partner — is due to speak mid-afternoon to the media, and Anwar’s party plans a public celebration this evening which he will attend.

There were cheers and shouts of jubilation outside the hospital as a smiling Anwar appeared, flanked by large numbers of police and security officials. Wearing a suit, he touched his heart before waving at a scrum of reporters and photographers and getting into a waiting car alongside his wife Wan Azizah Wan Ismail, who is deputy prime minister and also president of the People’s Justice Party, or PKR.

It comes just a day before the Muslim holy fasting month of Ramadan begins. "What better way to greet Ramadan,” his daughter Nurul Izzah posted on Instagram. “A pardon based on a miscarriage of justice, a separation met with an eventual embrace."

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Mahathir Mohamad

Photographer: Manan Vatsyayana/AFP via Getty Images

Anwar’s release is a moment to celebrate for a group which labored in opposition for decades and faced constant pressure from those in office — he’s been jailed twice on sodomy convictions and also for abuse of power. Still, while a pardon clears the way for him to resume a political role, the move may exacerbate tension within the fledgling government.

That’s because Mahathir, 92, promised during the campaign to stand aside for Anwar once he was pardoned but is now pushing back the potential timeline by a matter of years. Failing to make room for Anwar would highlight the extent to which the durability of the coalition rests on a continued rapprochement between the two former enemies.

“There is this give-and-take that the two must abide by,” according to Sivamurugan Pandian, a professor of political sociology at Universiti Sains Malaysia. “The longer the wait the greater the animosity among Anwar’s supporters, but at the same time they understand that the unifying factor that led them to win the election was Mahathir.”

Read more: How Sworn Enemies Toppled Najib But Pose a New Risk to Malaysia

Mahathir said Tuesday that Anwar will first need to contest a parliamentary seat, and potentially then take a cabinet role.

“In the initial stages, maybe lasting one or two years, I will have to be the prime minister and I will have to run the country,” Mahathir said via video conference to participants at a Wall Street Journal event in Tokyo.

The relationship between Anwar and Mahathir has been marked by decades of bitterness and public attacks, stemming from Mahathir’s decision during a prior stint in power to sack Anwar as his deputy amid a dispute on how best to respond to the Asian financial crisis.

After he was fired in 1998, Anwar was jailed in the majority Muslim nation for committing sodomy and abusing power, charges he denied. He was convicted in 2014 on a subsequent sodomy charge and jailed in 2015 when his appeal was denied. He needed the royal pardon to bypass a five-year ban on re-entering politics.

Read more: Mahathir in His Own Words: On Markets, Islam and Anwar Ibrahim

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Supporters of Anwar Ibrahim in Kuala Lumpur on May 11.

Photographer: Ulet Ifansasti/Getty Images

There are already signs of tension in the four-party coalition in the election aftermath, including public squabbles over the way cabinet posts are decided. The Pakatan Harapan grouping includes one mostly representing ethnic Malays, and one representing Chinese.

“I expect some resistance,” Mahathir said of differences related to cabinet appointments. “So far we have been able to resolve. It is accepted that the final decision will be made by me.”

Najib last month referred to Mahathir’s coalition as a "motley collection of parties" that he said would struggle to remain united. Prior versions of the alliance — before Mahathir joined — collapsed in acrimony over ideology, and at times parties competed against each other for votes in the same districts.

Unity between Anwar, 70, and Mahathir is key to the government executing quickly on campaign promises to scrap an unpopular goods and services tax, review big-ticket infrastructure projects and cut spending.

“The reason why the public supported us is they have faith in the leadership of the opposition to resolve some of the problems,” Mahathir said Tuesday.

“He is leader of one of the coalition parties,” he said of Anwar. “I expect him to play the same role as the leaders of the other three parties. There will be no more special powers given, excepting as is given to ministers or deputy ministers or deputy prime ministers.”

— With assistance by Isabel Reynolds, and Anisah Shukry

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    Politics Sunday: Don McGahn, Mueller, Brennan

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    Jews Against Israelis: Netanyahu's Hungarian-style Politics

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    “The issue now is a conflict between Israel’s identity as a Jewish state and as an Israeli state,” explained right-wing journalist Shimon Riklin on Army Radio. He’s right. That is the basis for the campaign waged by organizations such as the right-wing group Im Tirzu, labeling members of human rights groups as traitors and foreign moles. It also underpins Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Hungarian-style campaign, led by the nation-state law.

    The law has in effect eliminated the notion of Israeli citizenship. There is no such thing as Israeli anymore. It’s now an epithet akin to leftist. Now it’s Jewish, while the status of everyone else has been downgraded.

    To really understand Israel and the Middle East – subscribe to Haaretz

    In a Haaretz op-ed (in Hebrew), former cabinet member Haim Ramon played the innocent, wondering why we are angry, holding protest rallies instead of embracing the new nation-state law. After all, he wrote, it’s only about “granting the right to nationhood exclusively to the Jewish nation,” without harming “individual rights.” All the spokespeople for the ethnocentric right wing, along with their helpers, such as Ramon, have avoided elaborating on the “national” rights granted only to Jews by the law, along with any discussion of violations of the individual rights of the population as a whole.

    The bottom line is that this law totally ignores minorities and their rights. Clause 7, for example, provides that the state will encourage and promote the establishment and consolidation of Jewish settlement. This detailed description underscores the fact that only Jews will benefit from all these efforts undertaken by the state, whereas non-Jews won’t. The state won’t develop or encourage or promote or establish and consolidate anything for them. That wouldn’t be in the “national interest,” as the law explicitly states when it comes to Jews.

    >> Basic law of basically a disaster? Israel’s nation-state law controversy explained ■ It’s no crime to march for peace | Analysis ■ Netanyahu and Orban: An illiberal bromance spanning from D.C. to Jerusalem

    But come on, guys, why be crybabies and make such a big deal of something as trivial as residential communities and housing and associated services? After all, no “individual rights” will be violated, say Ramon and those on the right. But that’s a blatant lie. When a Druze citizen wants a permit to build a house and is denied it for “national” reasons (for not being Jewish), his individual rights are trampled. Is there anything more important to a person than a house?

    We should listen to the two people who sponsored the law, ideologues of the new right in the cabinet, Tourism Minister Yariv Levin and Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked. Levin explained that the law’s main objective is to assist judges who have a rightist agenda. “The law gives them tools they never had before. It permits incentives and benefits to be granted based on a desire to maintain a Jewish character,” he said. Last year, Shaked said it would allow judges to favor the Jewish character of the state over its democratic one.

    The real target of this Hungarian-style politics is not necessarily minorities, but anyone who doesn’t toe the government line. The nation-state law is the tool to achieve this. Who will determine what  Jewish character is and who will decide who is Jewish and entitled to Levin’s benefits? Not the law, not the courts, but religion and those who speak on its behalf. The key to admission to this world of benefits will not be in the hands of every Israeli, not even of every Jew, but only of government rabbis.

    The law already puts hundreds of thousands of people from the former Soviet Union beyond the pale, since they are not recognized as Jews. Many of them vote for Yisrael Beiteinu, the party whose name in Hebrew means “Israel is our home,” but Israel no longer views itself as their home.

    Even Israelis considered Jewish now may face a problem. Who will guarantee that they aren’t re-labelled? I’m not sure they will recognize me. I’ve been accused many times of not being Jewish. Others have claimed that I’ve forgotten what it means to be Jewish. If it were up to them, why would they recognize me, a secular person, as their equal? They may predicate the desired recognition on keeping religious commandments and the adoption of a religious lifestyle, in addition to a loyalty oath. “A Jewish nation” is not synonymous with Jews in general, but only with loyal Jews. Think about it. When they have the authority to grant special privileges in a Riklin-style “Jewish state,” do you really think they’ll give them to you?

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    Stop whining about 'the politics of envy'. Executive pay is indefensible

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    1. Stop whining about ‘the politics of envy’. Executive pay is indefensible  The Guardian
    2. Full coverage



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