Reformist Anwar Ibrahim yesterday declared a "new dawn for Malaysia" after his release from prison paved the way for a return to national politics as presumptive successor to Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad following a stunning election upset.
In scenes that captivated Malaysians, the charismatic 70-year-old returned to the national spotlight after the country's king quashed a widely criticised sodomy conviction that had put Anwar behind bars for three years.
To ecstatic cries of "Reformasi!" (Reform) -- Anwar's rallying cry -- he took selfies with his former prison guards and vowed before hundreds of journalists and supporters to back efforts to take the country in a new direction.
Anwar said he had forgiven Mahathir, 92, who had him imprisoned two decades ago but has become his unlikely ally, reported AFP.
"Now there is a new dawn for Malaysia," said Anwar, flanked by his wife Wan Azizah Wan Ismail and other members of his political party.
"The entire spectrum of Malaysians, regardless of race or religion, have stood by the principles of democracy and freedom. They demand change."
Anwar said he would like to take time off with his family and did not intend to join the cabinet any time soon, reported Reuters.
Mahathir has said he expects to run the government for one to two years but has signalled that the reins would be turned over to Anwar eventually.
Anwar said his history with Mahathir was water under the bridge, as they shared the same goals of reforming the government and cleaning up a massive corruption scandal involving former prime minister Najib Razak.
"Bury the hatchet? It's been a long time already," Anwar said when asked about Mahathir. "I have forgiven him."
Anwar indicated that he had no immediate plans to get deeply involved in politics, but would support Mahathir's governing efforts as a "private citizen".