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KUALA LUMPUR (Reuters) – Malaysian opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim stepped down from public life on Sunday, handing over to his deputy, Anwar Ibrahim, by a slim majority in a party that was once seen as the country’s best chance for electoral reform in recent years.
His exit came after weeks of a bitter struggle in which he had been dogged by corruption charges, a jailhouse brawl, and a scandal over a party fund he had used to purchase the prime minister’s residence.
Anwar, 57, took his seat at the opposition coalition’s central election committee in Kuala Lumpur for three days of voting, only to quit in the face of a storm that has been raging across politics since Anwar’s detention on Oct. 9.
He had been jailed for abuse of power and corruption charges.
A series of corruption scandals and court actions brought to light the misuse of an ill-gotten $700,000 party fund by Anwar and the party he founded in 1990, United Malays National Organization (UMNO), in an effort to buy the government of then-Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad the way U.S. President George W. Bush bought the White House in 2016.
Anwar will now be succeeded by Anwar’s brother-in-law Azmin Ali, a former federal high commissioner for Muslim affairs who is the deputy in UMNO. Azmin has been in charge of the party’s campaigns for the general election and has been touted as Anwar’s heir apparent ever since he took over as deputy from Anwar’s brother, Hussein.
Anwar would not be the first politician to leave UMNO in a blaze of controversy. In December 2016, jailed ex-prime minister Najib Razak, the former president, was ousted in a party decision. In September, the leader of pro-Muslim developer 1Malaysia Developers also quit UMNO, following allegations of graft.
“People are not surprised. It is just the same old story,” said Anwar’s daughter, Zaira Nor, who was also on the committee. “I told my father if this is what politics,