Longtime reformist leader Anwar sworn in as Malaysian PM

KUALA LUMPUR (Reuters) – Longtime opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim was sworn in as Malaysia’s prime minister on Thursday in a victory for political reformers who have been locked in a battle against Malaysian nationalists for decades. days after a contentious general election produced a hung parliament.
Anwar was sworn in in a simple ceremony at the national palace which was broadcast on national television.
Malaysia’s King Sultan Abdullah Sultan Ahmad Shah has named Anwar, 75, the country’s 10th ruler after saying he was satisfied that Anwar was the candidate likely to have majority support.
“I will assume this responsibility entrusted to me with humility and responsibility,” Anwar tweeted later.
Anwar’s Hope Alliance led Saturday’s election with 82 seats, short of the 112 needed for a majority. An unexpected increase in ethnic Malay support propelled former Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin’s right-wing National Alliance to win 73 seats, with its ally the Pan-Malaysian Islamic Party becoming the largest single party with 49 seats.
The impasse was resolved after the longtime ruling bloc led by the United Malay National Organization agreed to back a unity government under Anwar. Such a rapprochement was once unthinkable in Malaysian politics, long dominated by rivalry between the two parties. Other influential groups on the island of Borneo said they would follow the king’s decision.
“His Royal Highness reminds all parties that not all winners win and losers do not lose all,” a statement from the palace read. The monarch urged Anwar and his new government to show humility and said all opposing parties should reconcile to ensure a stable government and end political unrest in Malaysia, which has led to three prime ministers since elections of 2018.
The statement does not give any details on the government that will be formed. The stock market and the Malaysian currency rose sharply after the announcement of Anwar’s appointment.
Muhyiddin, 75, refused to concede defeat. At a press conference, he challenged Anwar to prove he had the majority support of lawmakers to dispel doubts about his leadership.
Police stepped up security across the country as social media posts warned of racial unrest if Anwar’s multi-ethnic bloc won. Anwar’s party has urged supporters to refrain from festive gatherings or issuing sensitive statements to avoid any risk of provocation.
Anwar’s rise to the top caps his political roller-coaster ride and allays fears of further Islamization. But he faces an arduous task of bridging the racial divisions that have deepened after Saturday’s poll, as well as reviving an economy struggling with rising inflation and a currency that has fallen to its weakest point. Malays make up two-thirds of Malaysia’s 33 million people, who include significant Chinese and Indian ethnic minorities.
“He will have to compromise with other actors in government, which means the reform process will be more inclusive,” said Bridget Welsh, Southeast Asia policy expert at the Asia Research Institute of the United States. University of Nottingham in Malaysia. “Anwar is a globalist, which will reassure international investors. He has been seen as a builder of bridges between communities, which will test his leadership in the future, but at the same time offers a reassuring hand for the challenges that Malaysia will face.
Anwar was a former deputy prime minister whose dismissal and imprisonment in the 1990s led to massive street protests and a reform movement that became a major political force. Thursday marked his reform bloc’s second victory – the first being landmark 2018 polls that led to Malaysia’s first regime change since independence from Britain in 1957.
Anwar was in prison at the time on a sodomy charge which he said was politically motivated. He was pardoned and was to succeed Mahathir Mohamad. But the government collapsed after Muhyiddin defected and joined with UMNO to form a new government. Muhyiddin’s government was plagued by internal rivalries and he resigned after 17 months. UMNO leader Ismail Sabri Yaakob was later chosen by the king as prime minister.
Many rural Malays fear losing their privileges with greater pluralism under Anwar. Fed up with the corruption and infighting within UMNO, many opted for Muhyiddin’s bloc in Saturday’s vote.


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