Veteran leader Anwar Ibrahim sworn in as Malaysia’s prime minister

Nov 24, 2022: According to a report by Reuters, Malaysia’s Anwar Ibrahim was sworn in as prime minister on Thursday, capping a three-decade political journey from a protege of veteran leader Mahathir Mohamad to protest leader, a prisoner convicted of sodomy and opposition leader.

His appointment ends five days of unprecedented post-election crisis, but could usher in a new instability with his rival, former prime minister Muhyiddin Yassin, challenging him to prove his majority in parliament.

Both men failed to win a majority in a Saturday election, but the constitutional monarch, King Al-Sultan Abdullah, appointed Anwar after speaking to several lawmakers.

Markets surged upon the end of the political deadlock. The ringgit currency posted its best day in two weeks and equities rose 3 percent.

The uncertainty over the election 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’s supporters expressed hope that his government would head off a return to historic tension between the ethnic Malay, Muslim majority, and ethnic Chinese and Indian minorities.
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 only 30 seats — the worst electoral performance for a coalition that had dominated politics since independence in 1957.

Barisan said on Thursday it would not support a government led by Muhyiddin, though it did not make any reference to Anwar.

Muhyiddin, after Anwar’s appointment, asked Anwar to prove his majority in parliament.

The decision on the prime minister came down to King Al-Sultan Abdullah, after both Anwar and Muhyiddin missed his Tuesday afternoon deadline to put together a ruling alliance.

The constitutional monarch plays a largely ceremonial role but can appoint a premier he believes will command 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 five-year term.

As premier, Anwar will have to address soaring inflation and slowing growth as the economy recovers from the COVID-19
pandemic, while calming ethnic tensions.

The most immediate issue will be the budget for next year, which was tabled before the election was called but has yet to be passed.

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

“Anwar is appointed at a critical juncture in Malaysian history, where politics is most fractured, recovering from a depressed economy and a bitter COVID memory,” said James Chai, visiting fellow at 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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