Thursday’s naming of Anwar as prime minister brought a temporary break to a chaotic election season that saw the fall of political titan Mahathir Mohamad, stunning gains by a far-right Islamist party and endless infighting among supposed allies. Conviction of disgraced former Prime Minister Najib Razak on charges including money laundering and abuse of power.
The Malaysian king said on Thursday afternoon that he had approved the appointment of Anwar as the country’s 10th prime minister after earlier consulting state-level rulers, and Anwar was sworn in hours later. In Malaysia, a parliamentary democracy with a constitutional monarchy, the king officially names the head of government.
The appointment, contested by some rivals, marks a dramatic comeback for Anwar, 75, an international figure whose political rise, fall and comeback spanned generations.
Anwar founded the Reformasi political movement, which has mobilized since the 1990s for social justice and equality. He is also known as an advocate of Muslim democracy and has previously expressed admiration for Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, once seen as a moderate democrat. Islam is the religion in Muslim-majority Malaysia, which has significant economic and security ties with the United States, but other faiths are widely practiced.
This Malaysian politician was jailed and condemned. He is now at the pinnacle of power.
A former deputy prime minister under Mahathir, who was considered his staunch rival before later reconciliation, Anwar spent decades working his way to the country’s top political post. Along the way, he won the support and friendship of international leaders such as former US Vice President Al Gore. He served two long prison terms for homosexuality and corruption – which Anwar and his supporters say were politically motivated.
Anwar’s multinational reform alliance Pakatan Harapan (PH), or Alliance of Hope, won 82 seats after last week’s election. The coalition was the largest single entity, but was still several dozen seats shy of the 112 needed to form a majority. The right-wing coalition, which won 73 seats, ran against the Perikatan Nasional (PN) to convince voters – as well as the country’s king, Sultan Abdullah of Pahang – that they have the mandate to form the next government.
Anwar’s entry was made possible after Barisan Nasional, the conservative coalition that has ruled Malaysia for most of its post-independence history, said it would not participate in a PN-led government. Barisan Nasional won 30 seats in the latest poll, putting it in the kingmaking position.
Despite his victory, analysts say Anwar now faces the steep challenge of uniting the country’s divided electorate.
“Polarization [in Malaysia] remains strong,” said Bridget Welsh, a research associate at the Asia Research Institute-Malaysia at the University of Nottingham. While Anwar has a strong image on the world stage, she also has a “weak mandate” at home.
Anwar opposes the caste-based affirmative action policies that have been the hallmark of previous Barisan Nasional-led governments. Some analysts credit the policies favoring Malay Muslims with creating a broad middle class in the nation of 32.5 million. But the laws have been blamed for stoking racial hatred, driving young people from Malaysia’s Indian and Chinese minorities out of the country and fostering systemic corruption.
Ahead of the election, PN leader and former prime minister Muhyiddin Yassin made the counter claim that Anwar’s coalition was working with Jews and Christians to “Christianize” Malaysia.
Council of Churches in Malaysia Condemned Muhyiddin’s remarks and Anwar criticized his opponent’s comments as disappointing. “I urge Muhyiddin to be a mature leader and not use racial propaganda to divide Malaysia’s plural reality,” he said on Twitter.
Following the announcement of Anwar’s appointment, Muhyiddin held a press conference where he called on his rival to demonstrate that he had the numbers to rule. He claimed that his coalition has the support of 115 members of Parliament and will be a majority.
Regardless of whether they supported him, the appointment of a new prime minister allows Malaysians to take a step back from two years of political turmoil that has included the resignation of two prime ministers, accusations of power-grabbing and a snap election in the middle of the tropics. Rainy season of the country. As the polls closed and it became clear that no group could win a majority on its own, confusion spread over who would lead the country. The king summoned party leaders to the palace and held closed-door talks for hours, backtracking day by day on his decision.
“We have been waiting for a while, for a while, for democracy to be restored,” said Adrian Pereira, a labor rights activist from the western state of Selangor. Voters are still anxious to see what kind of coalition Anwar has made and how power-sharing will work, “but now it’s kind of a relief for everyone,” he said.
Rafizi Rumli, deputy head of Anwar’s party, said on Thursday that the new prime minister would lead a “unity government”.
“We all need to step forward to work together to rebuild Malaysia,” he added A statement It urged Malaysians to defuse political tensions by avoiding “provocative” messages or gatherings.
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One of the biggest surprises of the election was the surge in support for the Malaysian Islamic Party, known as PAS, which more than doubled its seats in parliament, from 18 to 49. The party contested as part of Muhiaddin’s PN., Ultimately advocating for Islamic rule in Malaysia, it has emerged as a power broker in recent years, partnering with other parties that support pro-Malay and pro-Muslim policies.
With Anwar’s coalition in power, PAS will become the single largest party in the lower house of parliament.
Before Anwar was sworn in on Thursday evening, PAS leader Abdul Hadi Awang A statement was posted Thanks to voters for their support. He said that people are more accepting of the party’s 71-year struggle in Malaysia.
James Chin, a University of Tasmania professor who studies Malaysian politics, said he was shocked by PAS’s electoral victory, which he sees as a reflection of the broader rise of political Islam in Malaysia.
Malaysia and neighboring Indonesia have long touted themselves as moderate Islamic nations, but that may now change, Chin said. PAS has made its strongest gains in rural areas, and there is early evidence that it has gained support from new voters, including young Malays. Liberal, non-Malay-Muslim voters are now worried that a strengthened PAS is positioned to expand its influence, including over the country’s education policies.
“I knew PAS had a strong support in the Malay heartland…but I didn’t know they could develop so fast,” Chin said. “Nobody did.”
Katerina Ang reported from Seoul and Emily Ding from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Hari Raj in Seoul contributed to this report.