Despite a barrage of criticism leveled against Opposition Leader Anwar Ibrahim by former premier Dr Mahathir Mohamad, former de facto law minister Zaid Ibrahim feels Anwar has long since learnt the error of his Umno ways, and therefore deserves a chance to lead the nation.

NONEAnwar had been made to suffer more than any other political leader in the country and it is these "tragic and traumatic experiences" that have caused the once finance minister to be a different man today, Zaid (left) said in rebutting allegations made by the former premier in his article Change, dated Jan 3.

While agreeing that Anwar did not achieve much while in government, making a poor education minister and deputy prime minister, Zaid opined that Dr Mahathir is nonetheless too biased to accord an objective view of his "nemesis".

"He (Dr Mahathir) is dumbfounded that his nemesis is not only politically alive, but will probably be the next prime minister. Dr M is unable to accept this possibility as this would be a devastating defeat for him.

"Dr M is unable to accept that the person he targeted with the whole machinery of the state is still an active political leader who is more popular than he is," he said in his blog Zaid untuk Rakyat today.

However, the ex-Parti Kita chief, who stated he has been "an Anwar follower from afar for a long time", even naming his horse, 'Deputy Coming Back' in 2000, said he felt sorry for Anwar when he was sacked in 1998, followed by the infamous black eye incident.

Cleaner, more responsible gov't 

Zaid, who himself left PKR in 2010, said although Anwar still wants to be PM, he realised Malaysians have changed, wanting a cleaner, more responsible government.

"Stories of him having billions stashed away are lies. He has wealthy friends, of course, and they have kept his struggle going. I don't believe money is terribly important to Anwar and his family, so I don't think we will have pilferage on a huge scale when he becomes prime minister. So one up for him."

People, he added, are tired of Umno's divide-and-rule system and Anwar has learnt this in his travels while campaigning, and he will be carried by his strong sense of justice and genuine concern for the less fortunate.

"An important point to remember is that Anwar has a close relationship with PAS. I was initially sceptical that PAS could ever be a strong political force in a moderate Malaysia because for many years, they were hysterically extreme in their views.

NONE"Today (PAS president Abdul) Hadi (left) is no longer the firebrand Islamic leader from Rusila of the 1980's, but a moderate and practical politician. PAS has many young and moderate leaders, and they inject a strong ethical and moral dimension to governance, at least more so than Umno.

"I believe Anwar's influence on PAS and political Islam as a whole is positive," he said.

He added Anwar is mindful that his party must share power with the Islamic party and the DAP, and so knows that he can only govern effectively by reaching consensus.

Zaid, once an Umno member himself, but who was sacked by the Umno Supreme Council in Dec 2008 for attending opposition events, urged the rakyat to ignore the fears raised by Mahathir, saying Anwar will not find it to his benefit to rule the nation in his old Umno ways.-malaysiakini

Zaid Ibrahim on Dr Mahathir and Anwar Ibrahim.