Anwar Ibrahim appointed Prime Minister in Malaysia but political instability continues

After days of political turmoil, Malaysia has a new prime minister, its fifth in less than five years.

The country now relies on a veteran politician to provide political stability while leading a polarized constituency — divided between a faction that considers itself modern and multicultural, and another faction driven by the conservative Muslim establishment — entering the post-pandemic world.

This is the task ahead for Anwar Ibrahim, 75, who was appointed prime minister by the king on Thursday. It was the culmination of the stunning return of Mr Anwar, whose career included a stint as deputy prime minister, two widely seen as politically motivated prison sentences, and finally a leadership role. longtime opposition.

The appointment is supposed to end the crisis that has engulfed Malaysia for almost a week: Saturday’s national elections, the first since 2018, led to Malaysia’s first hanging parliament. But it is unclear with whom Anwar’s multi-ethnic coalition, Pakatan Harapan (Coalition of Hope), is working with whom to form a government.

None of the three main groups running for office won the simple majority needed to form a government in the 222-seat National Assembly. Former Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin, head of the Perikatan Nasional (National Coalition), said he would not accept Mr Anwar’s appointment, given that he had 115 votes in Parliament. Mr Anwar is expected to speak to the media on Thursday evening.

Bridget Welsh, an emeritus researcher with the Institute of Asian Studies at the University of Nottingham Malaysia, said: “It is a challenge because no one in Malaysian history has been involved with such a divided mandate. In this context.

Mr Anwar’s team led Saturday’s election with 82 seats. In second place is Perikatan, its success largely attributed to one member of the coalition, the Islamic Party of Malaysia, a conservative party that has called for Islamic theocracy in Malaysia. PAS, as the party’s name suggests, won 49 seats alone.

Barisan Nasional, the incumbent coalition that includes Anwar’s former party, the United Malays National Organization, was far behind, with 30. The election was seen as the final rebuke to UMNO, the organisation. has long been embroiled in corruption allegations. Mr Anwar has been actively campaigning for the public’s desire for change from UMNO, vowing that he “will not bring with us the culture of corruption and corruption we had before.”

The final decision rests with the king, Sultan Abdullah Sultan Ahmad Shah. Malaysia is a parliamentary democracy with a constitutional monarchyand the king has the privilege of appointing the prime minister in the event of an inconclusive election.

Over the course of five days, the alliances engaged in various closed-door negotiations, and the king and rulers of the Malay states met on Thursday to resolve the crisis.

“The reality is, the people cannot be burdened by the unending political turmoil when the country needs a stable government capable of boosting the economy and development of the country,” said the statement. electricity said in a statement.

Mr Anwar, who was sworn in on Thursday night, rose to political prominence as a member of the Malay nationalist UMNO, which prioritizes indigenous Malays over minorities. of the country. But after falling out with the party, Mr Anwar has called for equal treatment of minorities, mainly of Chinese and Indian descent.

“As a minority here, I feel like this is the only glimmer of hope we have left,” said Mahaysyhaa Shriedhaa A/P Gopal, a Malaysian of Indian descent, after she voted for Pakatan. Harapan. “Reform is the most immediate hope right now.”

Polite and charismatic, Mr. Anwar often talks about the importance of democracy and quotes from Gandhi as well as the Quran.

“The interesting thing about Anwar is that he is a man of many faces,” said Tunku Mohar bin Tunku Mohd Mokhtar, assistant professor of politics at International Islamic University Malaysia. “He was seen as a liberal but at the same time he was seen as a religious man. But his brand of Islam is much more progressive and permissive, so he is more popular with urban Malays than rural people.”

For many years, Mr Anwar was clearly the heir to Mahathir Mohamad, the longtime leader of UMNO and Malaysia’s longest serving prime minister. But in the late 1990s, Mr. Anwar’s relationship with Mr. Mahathir deteriorated after Mr. Anwar criticized what he saw as a culture of camaraderie within UMNO. Both men then disagreed over how to handle the Asian financial crisis, with Mr Anwar advocating a free market approach and no bailout, while Mr Mahathir blamed the financier. George Soros himself about the currency crisis.

In 1998, Mr Anwar was fired from the Cabinet. He started a protest movement called Reformasi (Reform) that called for an end to corruption and increased social justice. That year, he was charged with sodomy. Many Malaysians were stunned when he appeared with a black eye in court after he was brutally assaulted by a police chief. He was later sentenced to nine years in prison. Amnesty International called Mr Anwar a prisoner of conscience, detained “because of a different opinion than the prime minister,” said Mahathir.

After his release from prison, Mr. Anwar taught abroad before returning home to run for office again. He won a by-election, defeating UMNO, and was again arrested that year for sodomy, which he denies. In 2014, Mr Anwar was sentenced to five years in prison, a sentence many human rights groups see as politically motivated.

But miraculously, a few years later Mr. Anwar was back on the trajectory of prime ministerial work. He made up with Mr. Mahathir, his former mentor, who retired to join the opposition. They successfully overthrew the incumbent UMNO government led by Najib Razak, but failed in their succession plan.

Now Mr. Anwar has finally sat in the chair he has been looking for for a long time.

Rabi’ah binti Aminudin, assistant professor of political science at International Islamic University Malaysia, said: “Many Malaysians have invested in his and his family’s struggle. “They finally see it as a dream come true.”

But Mr Anwar will also face a more religiously conservative voter base, which sees him as too liberal.

Take, for example, the PAS, the Muslim party that won the largest number of seats in the National Assembly. The party leader, Abdul Hadi Awang, wanted the secular Constitution to be interpreted from an “Islamic context”. He has called for the implementation of a harsh Islamic law called “hudud” that allows for punishments including amputation, caning and stoning to death.

For many residents, the rise of PAS is a threat to secular Malaysia. The antidote, Oh Ei Sun, a Malaysian who is a senior fellow at the Singapore Institute of International Affairs, said it could be Mr Anwar.

“We can only hope that his latest story of helping all Malaysians can continue to exist when he becomes prime minister,” Mr. Oh said.

United States of America contribution report.


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