KUALA LUMPUR - Pakatan Harapan (PH) chairman Anwar Ibrahim was sworn in as Malaysia’s 10th prime minister on Thursday, ending a 24-year wait to lead the country.
In a black baju melayu, with gold sampin, Datuk Seri Anwar wore a wide smile as he was called upon to take his oath of office and secrecy.
Mr Anwar, 75, was appointed after the king, Sultan Abdullah Ahmad Shah, made the decision following a conference with other rulers in a special meeting of the nation’s nine state monarchs.
“After going through the views of the Malay rulers, His Majesty has consented to appointing Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim as Malaysia’s 10th prime minister,” said Royal Comptroller Fadli Shamsuddin on Thursday afternoon.
The decision was nonetheless disputed by Perikatan Nasional (PN) chief Muhyiddin Yassin, who insisted that he had presented the Palace with evidence of backing from 115 MPs and challenged Mr Anwar to prove his majority.
The ceremony was attended by top officials such as the chief secretary to the government, the Chief Justice, Attorney-General, Speakers of both Houses of Parliament and leaders from both his PH and Barisan Nasional (BN).
Mr Anwar was seated next to his wife and former deputy premier Wan Azizah Wan Ismail, with their six children, including former MP Nurul Izzah Anwar in attendance.
“This trust will be borne with humility and responsibility. I will carry out this solemn duty with my team guided by the will and desire of the people,” Mr Anwar said in a tweet after he was sworn in.
This comes after most parties agreed to Sultan Abdullah’s proposal for a unity government after Saturday’s general election resulted in Malaysia’s first ever hung Parliament.
Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) president Anwar and his PN rival Muhyiddin, also 75, had been deadlocked and unable to gather the 112 MPs needed for a simple majority in the legislature.
After Umno confirmed early on Thursday that it would join a unity government, departing from the BN coalition’s earlier stance of remaining in opposition, other parties across the country followed suit.
Even PN said on Thursday that it would consider unity government discussions with like-minded parties.
Markets surged upon the end of the political deadlock. The ringgit currency posted its best day in two weeks and equities rose 3 per cent, hitting a 15-month high.
Mr Anwar’s appointment was met with cheers from his allies and supporters.
In her Instagram post, Mr Anwar’s daughter Nurul Izzah, who saw her father sacked and jailed in 1998 after a fallout with then Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, said: “I love you papa and I am always proud of you, even as you lay imprisoned as a prisoner of conscience.”
Mr Rafizi Ramli, the deputy president of Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR), a component party of PH, thanked the King for appointing Mr Anwar as the new premier.
“We must all move forward and learn to cooperate to rebuild Malaysia for the sake of its future, and the prosperity of the people of different groups, races, states and backgrounds,” the Pandan MP said in a statement.
The Straits Times has learnt that a deal struck between PH and BN – which found itself in the role of kingmaker with 30 MPs despite the Umno-led coalition being humiliated at Saturday’s vote – will see Umno gaining several senior portfolios, with the party’s No. 2 Mohamad Hasan set to be installed as deputy premier.
Mr Anwar’s ascension to the top office, having been sacked as deputy premier in 1998 amid controversial allegations of sodomy and abuse of power, marks a remarkable triumph following a journey that included two stints in prison.
He was appointed deputy prime minister under Tun Dr Mahathir’s Umno-led government in 1993, but his prospects dimmed after he was jailed for corruption in 1999. His imprisonment sparked street protests and the birth of his PKR, which now leads PH.
Mr Anwar was again imprisoned in 2015 for sodomy, but was given a royal pardon and released in May 2018 after PH won the general election that year. Dr Mahathir, who had left Umno and joined hands with Mr Anwar to secure PH’s victory, became the prime minister.
The PKR chief was then widely expected to ascend to power as part of an agreement within PH for him to take over as prime minister in two years from Dr Mahathir. But his progress was again thwarted when the PH government collapsed in February 2020 following defections.
Mr Anwar and Tan Sri Muhyiddin both staked their claim after their respective coalitions won 81 and 73 seats, respectively, in Saturday’s general election, which also saw Dr Mahathir fall from grace in a thumping defeat.
Sultan Abdullah stepped in on Tuesday to surface the idea of a unity government.
Mr Muhyiddin’s decision to reject the proposal, claiming he had a simple majority with backing from other parties, proved fatal to his hopes.