The naming of Anwar as prime minister on Thursday ended a tumultuous election season in Malaysia that has seen the fall of Mahathir Mohamad, surprising gains by far-right Islamic parties and endless infighting. among the supposed allies, as a result of the large part. by convicting former prime minister Najib Razak on charges including money laundering and abuse of power.
“This is a unity government,” Anwar said Thursday evening at his first press conference as prime minister. Alternating between Malay and English, he pledged to stamp out the corruption that has tainted Malaysian politics in recent years and thanked supporters who have stood by him for decades.
“We will promote the rights of all citizens,” he said. “And we want all citizens to work with us.”
Earlier this morning, the king of Malaysia announced that he had approved the appointment of the veteran politician as the country’s 10th prime minister. In Malaysia, a parliamentary democracy with a constitutional monarchy, the king officially names the head of government.
The time It marks a dramatic comeback for Anwar, 75, an international figure whose political rise, fall and comeback spanned generations. He now faces the difficult task of leading a nation of 32.5 million as he contends with a divided electorate, a global economic slowdown, and geopolitical tensions in Southeast Asia between China and the United States.
Anwar founded the country’s Reformasi political movement, which has been rallying since the 1990s for social justice and equality. He is also known as a supporter of Muslim democracy and has expressed his admiration for Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who was once seen as a moderate Democrat. Islam is the state religion in Malaysia, which is a Muslim majority, but other faiths are also popular.
This Malaysian politician was imprisoned and convicted. He is now at the base of power.
A former deputy prime minister under Mahathir, who was considered a staunch rival before they reconciled, Anwar has struggled for decades to reach the country’s highest political office. . He also served two long prison terms for sodomy and corruption — convictions that Anwar says were politically motivated.
As Anwar left the press conference, he shouted a slogan that has served as a rallying cry throughout his political career. “Lawan sampai menang!” he shouted before being chased by supporters. Fight until you win.
Anwar’s multi-reformist coalition, Pakatan Harapan (PH), or Alliance of Hope, won 82 seats after last week’s election. The coalition is the largest single bloc but is still dozens of seats shy of the 112 it needs to form a majority. It competed with Perikatan Nasional (PN), a right-wing coalition that won 73 seats, to convince voters — as well as the country’s king, Sultan Abdullah of Pahang — that it has the responsibility to form a government. he follows.
The new prime minister said his role was fulfilled thanks to the support of two main groups, Gabungan Parti Sarawak, a regional alliance that won 23 seats, and Barisan Nasional, a conservative coalition that has ruled Malaysia for most of the history of its independence. Barisan Nasional, which said on Thursday it would not take part in a PN-led government, won 30 seats in the latest poll, putting it in power.
While Anwar may appear to have won, he is now responsible for winning the trust of a growing conservative Muslim community that views him as too liberal, analysts say. He campaigned on a promise to clean up the government and create a more equal society, but he could be blocked from governing by the parties he worked with.
Anwar opposes the race-based affirmative action policies that characterized the previous Barisan Nasional-led government. The policy, which favors Malay Muslims, has been credited by some observers with creating a large middle class in Malaysia. But critics blame the law for stoking racial hatred, driving young people from Malaysia’s Indian and Chinese minorities out of the country, and creating systemic corruption.
Before the election, PN leader and former prime minister Muhyiddin Yassin made antisemitic statements that Anwar’s coalition was working with Jews and Christians to “Christianize” Malaysia. Anwar criticized his opponent’s comments as desperate, and responded that Muhyiddin was trying to “use racial propaganda to divide the many facts in Malaysia.”
After the announcement of Anwar’s nomination, Muhyiddin held a press conference and questioned his opposition’s authority to rule. Anwar said on Thursday evening that he welcomed the PN to work with his community, but it was not clear whether Muhyiddin intended to accept the invitation.
“Polarization [in Malaysia] remains strong,” said Bridget Welsh, research associate at the University of Nottingham’s Asia Research Institute-Malaysia.
Regardless of his support, many Malaysians welcomed the appointment of a new prime minister, who put an end to two years of political turmoil that saw the resignation of two prime ministers, the accusation of usurpation of power and the snap election held. during the monsoon season in tropical countries.
After the polls closed and it became clear that no single group could command a majority alone, confusion spread over who would lead. The king summoned the party leaders to the palace to consult at home, delaying his decisions day by day.
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“We have been waiting for stability, for democracy to be restored, for some time,” said Adrian Pereira, a labor rights activist from the western state of Selangor. Voters still can’t wait to see how power will be shared, “but right now, it’s kind of a relief for everybody,” he said.
One of the biggest surprises of the election was the increase in support for the Malaysian Muslim Party, known as PAS, which doubled its seats in parliament, from 18 to 49., defender of Islamic rule in Malaysia and has emerged as a power broker in recent years, forming alliances with other parties that support pro-Malay-Muslim policies.
If Anwar’s coalition rules, PAS will be the single largest party in the national assembly.
Before Anwar was sworn in on Thursday evening, PAS leader Abdul Hadi Awang issued a statement thank the voters for their support. “The 71 years of struggle in Malaysia is always accepted by people,” he said.
James Chin, a professor at Australia’s University of Tasmania who studies Malaysian politics, said he was “dismayed” by PAS’s electoral success, which he saw as a reflection of the rise of radical Islam. politics in Malaysia.
While neighboring Malaysia and Indonesia have long described themselves as moderate Islamic countries, that may change, Chin said. PAS has made its strongest gains in rural areas, he noted, and there is early evidence that it has gained the support of new voters, including young Malays. Liberal and non-Malay-Muslim voters are now worried that a strengthened PAS has room to expand its influence, including over the country’s education policy.
“I know that PAS was strongly supported in the Malay land. … But I still don’t know that they can expand that fast,” Chin said. “No one did.”
Ding reported from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, and Ang from Seoul. Hari Raj in Seoul contributed to this report.