Thursday’s appointment of Anwar as prime minister brought a temporary end to a chaotic election season that saw the fall of political titan Mahathir Mohamad, surprising gains by the far-right Islamic party and endless infighting among would-be allies. disgraced former prime minister Najib Razak was convicted of money laundering and abuse of office.
After consulting with state-level rulers earlier in the day, Malaysia’s king confirmed Anwar’s appointment as the country’s 10th prime minister on Thursday afternoon, and Anwar was sworn in hours later. In Malaysia, a parliamentary democracy with a constitutional monarchy, the king officially appoints the head of government.
The appointment, disputed by some opponents, marks a dramatic turnaround for Anwar, 75, an international figure whose political rise, fall and comeback has spanned generations.
Anwar founded the “Reformasi” political movement, which has been gathering for social justice and equality in the country since the 1990s. He is also known as a supporter of Muslim democracy and has admitted to admiring Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who was once seen as a moderate democrat. Islam is the state religion in Muslim-majority Malaysia, which has significant economic and security ties with the United States, but where other faiths are widely practiced.
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Anwar, a former deputy prime minister under Mahathir and considered his bitter rival before later reconciling, struggled for decades to reach the country’s highest political post. Along the way, he won the support and friendship of international leaders such as former US Vice President Al Gore. He also served two lengthy prison terms for sodomy and corruption—politically motivated, according to Anwar and his supporters.
Anwar’s multi-ethnic reformist coalition, Pakatan Harapan (PH), or Alliance of Hope, won 82 seats after last week’s election. The Alliance was the largest single bloc, but was still a few dozen seats shy of the 112 seats needed to form a majority. He competed with Perikatan Nasional (PN), a right-wing coalition that won 73 seats, to convince voters as well as the country’s monarch, Sultan Abdulla Sultan Ahmad Shah, that he had the mandate to form the next government.
Anwar’s accession 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 polls, putting it in the royal position.
While Anwar has proven to be a winner, analysts say, he now faces the daunting task of uniting the country’s fractured electorate.
“Polarization [in Malaysia] remains strong,” said Bridget Welsh of the University of Nottingham’s Institute of Asian Studies in Malaysia. While Anwar has a strong image on the world stage, he has a “weak mandate” at home, she said.
Anwar opposes race-based affirmative action policies that have been a hallmark of past Barisan Nasional-led governments. Policies favoring Malay Muslims are credited by some analysts with creating a broad-based middle class in the country of 32.5 million. But critics accuse the laws of stoking racial animosity, driving away young people from Malaysia’s Indian and Chinese minorities and fueling systemic corruption.
Ahead of the election, PN leader and former prime minister Muhyiddin Yassin made an anti-Semitic claim that Anwar’s coalition was working with Jews and Christians to “Christianize” Malaysia.
Malaysian Council of Churches condemned Muhyiddin and Anwar criticized their opponent’s comments as desperate. “I urge Muhyiddin to be a mature leader and not use racial propaganda to divide the plural reality in Malaysia,” he said.
After Anwar’s appointment was announced, Muhyiddin held a press conference calling on his rival to prove he had the numbers to rule. He claimed that the coalition led by him has the support of 115 deputies, which will constitute a majority in the parliament.
Whether they support him or not, the appointment of a new prime minister allows Malaysians to put an end to two years of political turmoil, including the resignation of two prime ministers, claims of a power grab and a snap election in the middle of the tropics. monsoon season of the country. After the polls closed and it became clear that no single bloc would have a majority on its own, there was confusion over who would lead the country. The king summoned the party leaders to the palace, deliberating for hours behind closed doors, pushing back his decision day by day.
“We have been waiting for some time for some stability, for the restoration of democracy,” said Adrian Pereira, a labor rights activist from the western state of Selangor. Voters are still waiting to see what kind of coalition Anwar builds and how power-sharing will work, “but for now it’s kind of a relief for everybody,” he said.
Rafizi Ramli, deputy chairman of Anwar’s party, said on Thursday that the new prime minister would lead a “unity government”.
“We must all move forward and learn to work together to rebuild Malaysia,” he said statement which urged Malaysians to reduce political tensions by avoiding “provocative” messages or gatherings.
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Among the biggest surprises of the election was the surge in support for the Islamic Party of Malaysia, known as PAS, which more than doubled its parliamentary seats. This party participated as part of Muhyiddin’s PN., It is a supporter of the last Islamic rule in Malaysia and has emerged as a power broker in recent years, forming partnerships with other parties that support pro-Malay-Muslim policies.
Although Anwar’s coalition is in power, PAS will be the single largest party in the lower house of parliament.
PAS leader Abdul Hadi Awang before Anwar was sworn in on Thursday evening issued a statement thanked the voters for their support. The party’s “71-year struggle in Malaysia is increasingly being accepted by the people,” he said.
University of Tasmania professor James Chin, who studies Malaysian politics, said he was “surprised” by PAS’s electoral success, which reflected the wider rise of political Islam in Malaysia.
According to China, while the country, along with neighboring Indonesia, has long promoted themselves as moderate Islamic nations, that may now change. PAS has made its strongest gains in rural areas, he noted, and there are early signs that they are gaining the support of new voters, including young Malaysians. Liberal and non-Malay Muslim voters are concerned that a now-reinvigorated PAS is positioning itself to expand its influence, including over the country’s education policies.
“I knew that PAS had a lot of support in the heartland of Malaya… But I still didn’t know that they could expand so fast,” Chin said. “Nobody did.”
Ang reported from Seoul and Ding reported from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Hari Raj in Seoul contributed to this report.