Malaysia’s new PM Anwar says he has two-thirds majority support in Parliament

Malaysia's new PM Anwar Ibrahim said that Gabungan Rakyat Sabah agreed to join the unity government. PHOTO: REUTERS

KUALA LUMPUR - Malaysia’s newly minted Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim on Friday said that a political party from Sabah with six seats would join his unity government, providing him with a two-thirds majority in Parliament.

Gabungan Rakyat Sabah (GRS) has agreed to join the unity government, he said.

“Our strength now is at two-thirds of the parliamentary majority, so this will strengthen national stability and we can focus on our work to boost the economy,” Datuk Seri Anwar told a news conference.

He said the number of ministers in his Cabinet will be trimmed, compared with previous administrations, and that he also hopes to reduce their salaries.

Mr Anwar said at his maiden news conference on Thursday that he would not take any salary to show his solidarity with Malaysians who are struggling with the rising cost of living.

A minimum of 148 MPs is required for the government to command a two-thirds majority in the 222-strong Lower House of Parliament.

The biggest blocs in Mr Anwar’s unity government comprise his Pakatan Harapan (PH) coalition with 82 seats, Barisan Nasional (BN) with 30 and Gabungan Parti Sarawak with 23 seats. That makes up a total of 135 seats.

A minimum of 112 seats is needed for a simple majority in order to form the government.

He also has the support of MPs from East Malaysia: Parti Warisan (three seats) and Parti Bangsa Malaysia (one).

Two independent lawmakers and one from Parti Kesejahteraan Demokratik Masyarakat (KDM) are also backing the unity government.

With the six lawmakers from GRS joining the government, PM Anwar would thus have the support of 148 MPs.

On Friday morning, Mr Anwar arrived at the Perdana Putra complex in Putrajaya, which houses the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO), to clock in for his first day at work.

Mr Anwar, 75, took his oath as Malaysia’s 10th prime minister on Thursday before the King, Sultan Abdullah Ahmad Shah, at the national palace.

On Friday, the rival Perikatan Nasional (PN) coalition led by former premier Muhyiddin Yassin indicated it would be in the opposition.

PN – headed by two Malay-Muslim parties, Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia and Parti Islam SeMalaysia – won 73 seats in last Saturday’s general election.

Former premier Mahathir Mohamad on Friday congratulated Mr Anwar in a message on Twitter.

“I congratulate Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim on his appointment as the 10th prime minister of Malaysia. All the best,” said the 97-year-old, who lost his deposit when defending his Langkawi ward in the national polls.

The Mahathir-Anwar on-off feuds have dominated Malaysian politics for the past two decades.

Mr Anwar said he has not considered taking up the finance minister portfolio. “We will look at all the possibilities but at the moment I have not considered that,” he told reporters after performing Friday prayers.

The country’s next finance minister will have to tackle surging inflation and a weak ringgit.

Mr Anwar has said that reducing the burden of rising prices on low- and middle-income groups is the top priority of his administration, and he will be meeting government agencies to discuss the matter.

“My priority now is addressing the cost of living,” he said after reporting for duty at the PMO.

“I have asked for more detailed discussions and immediate action to reduce the impact of the cost of living. I have asked the relevant agencies to meet as soon as this weekend or the coming Monday,” he said.

Mr Anwar was a finance minister and deputy prime minister to Tun Dr Mahathir in the BN government in the 1990s, before he was sacked in September 1998 during the Asian financial crisis after a falling out with Dr Mahathir.

Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has congratulated Mr Anwar and his PH alliance on its strong performance at Malaysia’s general election, adding that he looked forward to meeting him soon to discuss common issues facing their two countries.

PM Lee said in a letter to Mr Anwar: “Your premiership comes amid significant challenges in our regional and global environment. As close neighbours and friends, Singapore and Malaysia should work together to manage these challenges and explore new opportunities for cooperation.”

The new Malaysian leader has also received a congratulatory message from Brunei Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah and Chinese Premier Li Keqiang.

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.