Malaysian politician Anwar Ibrahim has won a parliamentary seat in a by-election, setting the stage for his eventual takeover from Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad.
The Election Commission said on Saturday that Anwar received 71 percent of the total votes cast, defeating six other candidates.
He got 31,016 votes, while his closest rival secured only 7,456.
“I’m, of course, extremely pleased and humbled by 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.
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.
Lee Tian Hock, a 60-year-old voter, told the AFP news agency he was “voting for the next premier”.
“We need an influential leader to bring long-overdue progress to Port Dickson.”
“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.”
The multibillion-dollar graft scandal at state fund 1MDB, over which Najib and his wife Rosmah Mansor face dozens of corruption charges, was also a focus of Anwar’s campaign.
Ibrahim Suffian, director of Merdeka Centre for Opinion Research, said Anwar has a “big task ahead of him”.
In parliament, he will be presiding over a reform agenda that aims to “improve good governance and civil liberties” and well as address concerns over the economy.
“Malaysia’s economy is growing, but there are worries, especially among the middle class that the country’s wealth is not trickling down. So, many people are complaining over stagnant wages and rising prices,” Suffian told Al Jazeera.
Anwar will also have to find a way to work with his former nemesis Mahathir, he added.
Mahathir has said he expects to be in office for at least two years and will keep his promise to hand over power to Anwar.
Anwar has said he wants to focus on parliamentary reforms and will not interfere in Mahathir’s governance.