HomeWorldAnwar Ibrahim Appointed Malaysia's New Prime Minister, Ending Decades of Waiting |...

Anwar Ibrahim Appointed Malaysia’s New Prime Minister, Ending Decades of Waiting | CNN

Malaysia’s king appointed opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim as prime minister on Thursday, ending five days of an unprecedented post-election crisis after inconclusive polls.

Anwar’s appointment caps a three-decade long political journey from a protégé of veteran leader Mahathir Mohamad to protest leader, to a prisoner convicted of sodomy, to opposition leader and finally to prime minister.

Markets soared at the end of the political stalemate. The ringgit currency posted its best day in two weeks and shares rose 3% on the Kuala Lumpur stock exchange.

Saturday’s general election ended in an unprecedentedly divided parliament with neither of the two main alliances, one led by Anwar and the other by former prime minister Muhyiddin Yassin, able to immediately secure enough seats in parliament to form a government.

Anwar, 75, has been repeatedly denied the post of prime minister despite coming within striking distance over the years: he was a deputy prime minister in the 1990s and an official prime minister-in-waiting in 2018.

In between, he spent nearly a decade in jail for sodomy and corruption on what he says were politically motivated charges aimed at ending his career.

Uncertainty over the elections threatened to prolong political instability in the Southeast Asian country, which has had three prime ministers in as many years, and risks delaying policy decisions needed to foster economic recovery.

Anwar leads a multi-ethnic coalition of parties with progressive leanings, while Muhyiddin’s alliance reflects Muslim, Malay and more conservative views.

His supporters expressed the hope that Anwar’s government would avoid a return to historic tension between the majority ethnic Malays, Muslims, and ethnic Chinese and Indian minorities.

“All we want is moderation for Malaysia and Anwar represents that,” said a communications manager in Kuala Lumpur, who asked to be identified by her last name Tang.

“We cannot have a country divided by race and religion, as that will set us back another 10 years.”

Anwar told Reuters in an interview ahead of the election that he would seek to “emphasize governance and the fight against corruption, and rid this country of racism and religious intolerance” if he were appointed prime minister.

His coalition, known as Pakatan Harapan, won the most seats in Saturday’s vote with 82, while Muhyiddin’s Perikatan Nasional bloc won 73. They needed 112, a simple majority, to form a government.

The long-ruling Barisan bloc won just 30 seats, the worst electoral performance for a coalition that had dominated politics since independence in 1957.

Barisan said on Thursday that he would not support a government led by Muhyiddin, though he made no reference to Anwar.

Muhyiddin’s bloc includes the Islamist PAS party, whose electoral gains raised concerns among members of the ethnic Chinese and Indian communities, most of whom profess other religions.

Authorities warned after the weekend vote of rising ethnic tension on social media, and short video platform TikTok said it was on high alert for content that violated its guidelines.

Social media users reported numerous TikTok posts since the election mentioning a riot in the capital Kuala Lumpur on May 13, 1969, which killed some 200 people, days after opposition parties backed by ethnic Chinese voters will advance in the elections.

Police told social media users to refrain from “provocative” posts and said they were setting up 24-hour checkpoints on highways across the country to ensure peace and public safety.

The decision on the prime minister fell to King Al-Sultan Abdullah Sultan Ahmad Shah, after both Anwar and Muhyiddin missed a Tuesday afternoon deadline to form a ruling alliance.

The constitutional monarch plays a primarily ceremonial role, but may appoint a prime minister who he believes will have a majority in parliament.

Malaysia has a unique constitutional monarchy in which kings are chosen in turn from the royal families of nine states to reign for a term of five years.

As prime minister, Anwar will have to deal with rising inflation and slowing growth as the economy recovers from the coronavirus pandemic, while calming ethnic tensions.

The most immediate issue will be the budget for next year, which was presented before the elections were called but has not yet been approved.

Anwar will also have to negotiate deals with lawmakers from other blocs to ensure he can retain majority support in parliament.

“Anwar is appointed at a critical time in Malaysia’s history, where politics is most fractured, reeling from a depressed economy and a bitter memory of Covid,” said James Chai, a visiting fellow at the ISEAS-Yusof Ishak Institute in Singapore.

“Always regarded as the man who could unite all warring factions, it is fitting that Anwar emerged during a divisive time.”

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