Malaysia cheers as Anwar Ibrahim is named Prime Minister

Pakatan Harapan supporters attending a rally by Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim in Tambun, Perak, on Nov 18, 2022. ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG

KUALA LUMPUR - After four days of political wrangling in Malaysia, supporters of Pakatan Harapan (PH) leader Anwar Ibrahim cheered as the 75-year-old was sworn in as the country’s 10th Prime Minister on Thursday.

In her Instagram post, Datuk Seri 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, Sultan Abdullah Ahmad Shah, 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.

Selangor Menteri Besar Amirudin Shari, who is from PH, also congratulated the new premier, saying: “We are prepared to aid the Tambun MP to lead the country, especially in the face of tough economic challenges next year.”

Datuk Seri Anwar won the Tambun parlimentary seat in Saturday’s general election with a majority of 3,736 votes.

Former MP Ong Kian Ming from the Democratic Action Party (DAP), a component party of PH, said in a statement: “We should celebrate the peaceful handover of power and the appointment of a new prime minister to lead a new government.

“But make no mistake, the hard work of forming and maintaining a stable federal government post-general election has just started.”

Johor DAP chairman Liew Chin Tong agreed. “Now, a lot of hard work needs to be put in for Malaysia to achieve greater heights together,” he told The Straits Times.

Former prime minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob, who was reluctant to work with PH, has also congratulated Mr Anwar.

“I pray that the new government will be able to continue political stability and continue to preserve the country’s economic sustainability,” said Datuk Seri Ismail, who is also the vice-president of Umno.

Former Umno secretary-general Annuar Musa said in a Facebook post that Malaysians should respect the King’s decision to appoint Mr Anwar and that “any gathering and activity that can lead to disharmony must be stopped”.

Social media was set alight after the palace confirmed that Mr Anwar would be made premierafter the special meeting among the nation’s nine state monarchs.

“I was at the airport when the announcement of our 10th PM was made, and I heard people scream, and saw people smile from ear to ear. Might be coincidence but not long after, the airport started to play Standing In The Eyes Of The World,” said Twitter user @itsraenu_, referring to a song recorded to commemorate Malaysia’s hosting of the Commonwealth Games in 1998 and performed by the country’s rock queen, Ella.

Another Twitter user @HIRAETHSXT, whose family is a staunch supporter of PH’s rival coalition Perikatan Nasional (PN), also expressed her happiness.

“Just so you know, my whole family and extended relatives all voted for PN. It’s me, and me alone, who voted for PH while I lied, saying I voted the same as them.

“You don’t know how much I sighed for relief and sobbed when DSAI (Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim) was announced as #PM10malaysia,” she said.

Mr Anwar’s appointment comes after most parties agreed to Sultan Abdullah Ahmad Shah’s proposal for a unity government after Saturday’s general election threw up Malaysia’s first hung Parliament.

PKR president Anwar and his rival PN chief Muhyiddin Yassin had been deadlocked and unable to gather the 112 MPs needed for simple majority in the legislature.

After Umno confirmed early on Thursday that it would join the unity government, departing from the Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition’s earlier stance of remaining in opposition, other parties across the country have followed suit.

Mr Anwar has been on track to become Malaysia’s prime minister since 1993, but has had his path blocked by imprisonment and party politics. This was his final bid for the top job.

In 1993, he was appointed deputy prime minister under Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s Umno-led government, but his prospects dimmed after he was jailed for corruption in 1999. His imprisonment sparked street protests and the birth of 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 2018 General Election.

He 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, who had left Umno and joined hands with Mr Anwar to secure PH’s victory in 2018.

But his progress was again thwarted when the PH government collapsed in February 2020, following defections.

Since then, Mr Anwar has struggled to return his coalition to prominence, but his persistence paid off when he was appointed the country’s premier.

Dr James Chai, a visiting fellow at ISEAS – Yusof Ishak Institute, said: “Anwar is appointed at a critical juncture in Malaysian history, where politics is most fractured, recovering from a depressed economy and a bitter Covid-19 (crisis) that killed thousands.”

He added that it is “fitting that Mr Anwar emerged during a divisive time” as he is “always regarded as the man who could unite all warring factions”.

Twitter user @logeishsri said: “Many of us voted for the first time and we made it happen!! Historical moment to all those who’s been fighting since 1998, this is for all of you.”

Twitter user @CHKen_2 said: “Anwar’s resurgence is something (inspiring) for many coming generations to come. Waited 24 years for this, went through all sorts of political backstabbing and even having to endure imprisonment – but never gave up on his principles. Keep on believing. #PM10malaysia.”

But not everyone is happy.

“We’re having someone who had a sodomy case against him as PM, it’s disgusting. Muhyiddin is still the best choice to lead the country. At least we know the Malays will be well taken care of,” said Facebook user Raja Reme Harez.

Meanwhile, Malaysian stocks saw their biggest jump in more than two years on Thursday.

The benchmark FTSE Bursa Malaysia KLCI Index rose 4 per cent, closing at 1,501.88 points.

Genting Malaysia, Sports Toto, Magnum and Carlsberg Brewery Malaysia were among the stocks that rallied as Perikatan Nasional, which comprises Parti Islam SeMalaysia, failed in its bid to form the government.

The ringgit surged 1.8 per cent to 4.4910 against the US dollar in its best showing since 2015. It also gained 1.2 per cent to 3.2687 against the Singdollar.

Mr Khoon Goh, ANZ’s head of Asia research, said investors will be keen to know “who will become finance minister, whether there will be any changes to the budget tabled by the previous government or any inkling that PH would introduce a GST (goods and services tax)”.

Private equity investor Ian Yoong said Mr Anwar should focus on enhancing revenue for the government’s coffers and implement the GST. “It was a big mistake to have replaced GST with SST (sales and service tax) post-GE14,” he said, referring to the 2018 General Election. “Implementation of GST will go a long way in taxing the profits of the black economy.”

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