Anwar’s naming as prime minister on Thursday brought a temporary end to a chaotic election season that saw the fall of political titan Mahathir Mohamad, surprise gains by the far-right Islamic Party and endless infighting among allies. Disgraced former prime minister Najib Razak has been convicted of charges including money laundering and abuse of power.
After consulting with state-level rulers earlier in the day, Malaysia’s king said Thursday afternoon that he had approved the appointment of Anwar as the country’s 10th prime minister, and Anwar was sworn in several hours later. In Malaysia, a parliamentary democracy with a constitutional monarchy, the king formally names the head of government.
Contested by some opponents, the appointment marks a dramatic comeback for the 75-year-old Anwar, whose political rise, fall and reversal has spanned generations.
Anwar founded the country’s Reformasi political movement, which has rallied since the 1990s for social justice and equality. He is also known as a proponent of Muslim democracy and has previously expressed admiration for 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 other faiths are widely practiced.
This Malaysian politician was jailed and condemned. Now he is at the edge of power.
A former deputy prime minister under Mahathir, who was later considered his bitter rival before he reconciled, Anwar worked for decades to reach the country’s top political post. Along the way, he gained the support and friendship of international leaders such as former US Vice President Al Gore. He served two long terms in prison for crimes and corruption that Anwar and his supporters say were politically motivated.
Anwar’s multiracial 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 several dozen seats shy of the 112 needed to form a majority. It has a mandate to form the next government – as well as the country’s ruler, Sultan Abdullah of Pahang – to persuade voters against the right-wing coalition Perikatan National (PN), which won 73 seats.
Anwar’s entry was made possible after Barisan Nasional, the conservative coalition that has ruled Malaysia for much 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 kingmaking position.
Although Anwar has proven victorious, analysts say he now faces the steep challenge of uniting the country’s divided electorate.
“Polarization [in Malaysia] remains strong,” said Bridget Welsh, research associate at the University of Nottingham’s Asia Research Institute-Malaysia. He said that while Anwar had a strong image on the world stage, he had a “weak mandate” at home.
Anwar opposes the ethnic-based confirmation policies that were a hallmark of previous 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 blame the laws for inciting ethnic hatred, driving young people from Malaysia’s Indian and Chinese minorities out of the country and fueling systemic corruption.
In the run-up to the election, PN leader and former prime minister Muhyiddin Yassin made an anti-Semitic statement that Anwar’s coalition was working with Jews and Christians to “Christianize” Malaysia.
Malaysian Council of Churches Condemned Muhyiddin criticized his remarks and Anwar’s rival’s comments as desperate. “I urge Muhyiddin to be a mature leader and not use racist propaganda to divide the plural reality in Malaysia,” he said on Twitter.
Following the announcement of Anwar’s appointment, Muhyiddin held a news conference where he called on his rival to prove that he had the numbers to rule. He claimed that his coalition had the support of 115 members of Parliament, which would constitute a majority.
Regardless of whether they support him, the appointment of a new prime minister could put a pin on two years of political turmoil in Malaysia, including the resignation of two prime ministers, allegations of power-grabbing and snap elections in the heart of the tropics. Rainy season of the country. After the polls were over and it was clear that no single faction could win a majority on its own, confusion spread over who would lead the country. The king called party leaders to the palace and pushed back his decision day after day in closed-door deliberations for hours.
“We have been waiting for some time for some stability, for democracy to be restored,” said Adrian Pereira, a labor rights activist in the western state of Selangor. Voters are still eager to see what kind of coalition Anwar builds and how power-sharing will work, but for now it’s a sort of solution for everyone, he said.
Rafizi Ramli, deputy chief 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 A statement It urged Malaysians to defuse political tensions by avoiding “provocative” messages or gatherings.
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Among the election’s biggest surprises was a spike 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 Muhyiddin’s PN, It ultimately advocates 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.
If Anwar’s coalition governs, 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 Posted a statement Thanks to voters for their support. He said the party’s “71-year struggle in Malaysia has been largely accepted by the people”.
University of Tasmania professor James Chin, who studies Malaysian politics, said he was “gobsmacked” by PAS’s electoral success, which he sees as a reflection of the broader rise of political Islam in Malaysia.
While Malaysia and neighboring Indonesia have long described themselves as moderate Islamic countries, this may now be changing, Chin said. He noted that PAS had made its strongest gains in rural areas, and there was early evidence that it had gained the support of new voters, including young Malays. Liberal and non-Malay-Muslim voters now worry that a strengthened PAS is in a position to expand its influence to include the country’s education policies.
“I knew that PAS had huge support in the Malay heartland … but I still didn’t know that they could expand so quickly,” Chin said. “Nobody did.”
Katerina Ang reports from Seoul and Emily Ding reports from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Hari Raj in Seoul contributed to this report.