KUALA LUMPUR (BLOOMBERG) – Malaysian opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim expects the imprisonment of former Prime Minister Najib Razak to give his Pakatan Harapan (PH) coalition a boost in what he said will likely be his final election.

The long-serving opposition leader, 75, said he plans to campaign on the issue in a vote that could be held as soon as this year, putting forth to Malaysians that corruption among the country’s most powerful figures will no longer be tolerated.

Datuk Seri Anwar also said during an interview Friday (Aug 26) that Najib’s political career has probably ended for the foreseeable future, and a royal pardon is unlikely soon as he still faces trials on other charges.

Najib began serving time in prison from Tuesday after Malaysia’s top court upheld his 2020 conviction for corruption in relation to 1MDB, a troubled state fund from which billions were siphoned.

“This has probably broken the taboo that corrupt leaders would remain untouched,” said Mr Anwar, who spent years in prison himself for charges he said were trumped up.

“This is a positive development for the opposition to showcase that if you want a clean government, if you want good governance, then this is an opportunity.”

Even with Najib’s imprisonment, the former premier retains widespread popularity and deep influence in the ruling Umno.

The party remains committed to holding elections as soon as possible to take advantage of a better-than-expected economy and a fractured opposition, a senior ruling party official said this week.

The government said on Friday it will bring forward the unveiling of its annual budget, giving Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob more leeway to call for polls this year should he decide to do so, though Mr Anwar downplayed the notion.

“I’m not sure after this conviction” and Najib’s subsequent jailing, he said, adding he believes most of Datuk Seri Ismail’s Cabinet would rather wait.

“I don’t think it is going to be that easy to have it early, which means sometime in the first quarter of next year.”

Mr Anwar has had a storied political career in which he seemed poised to become prime minister on more than one occasion.

He was seen as former premier Mahathir Mohamad’s successor in the 1990s before he was fired in the wake of the Asian financial crisis, after which he spent six years in prison on convictions for abuse of power and sodomy.

He then joined hands with Tun Dr Mahathir to win the 2018 election, only to see his old rival fail to honour a promise to step aside before the government unravelled.