Six days of turmoil: How Anwar beat rivals to become Malaysia’s PM

Malaysia's new Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim offers prayers after taking the oath during the swearing-in ceremony, on Nov 24, 2022. PHOTO: AFP

It took nearly a week after voting in Malaysia’s general election ended for Pakatan Harapan’s Anwar Ibrahim to be sworn in as the country’s 10th prime minister and given the right to form the next government.

Here is how he and his party got there.

Race begins

Saturday (Nov 19): An inconclusive general election in Malaysia produces the country’s first hung Parliament.

Pakatan Harapan’s (PH) Anwar Ibrahim and Perikatan Nasional’s (PN) Muhyiddin Yassin stake separate claims to form the government after winning 82 and 73 seats, respectively, short of the 112 needed for a simple majority in Malaysia’s 222-strong legislature.

Once-dominant coalition Barisan Nasional (BN), which ruled for 60 years and pushed for the snap polls, won just 30 seats.

Sarawak support

Sunday: Malaysia’s king, Sultan Abdullah Ahmad Shah, sets a Monday 2pm deadline for the competing groups to submit their respective prime minister candidates and proof they have majority support.

PN’s Muhyiddin steals a march on Mr Anwar as he meets Gabungan Parti Sarawak (GPS) leader Abang Johari Openg to discuss forming a government.

GPS, which won 23 seats in the election, releases a statement pledging the bloc’s support for a PN-led administration.

Perikatan Nasional chairman Muhyiddin Yassin (centre) and PAS leader Hadi Awang (second from left) meeting Gabungan Parti Sarawak leader Abang Johari Openg (right). PHOTO: MUHYIDDIN YASSIN/FACEBOOK

Unrest surfaces in BN’s camp, as its leaders lead calls for chairman Zahid Hamidi to resign in the wake of the disappointing results. Even so, BN and its 30 MPs emerge as kingmakers for front runners PH and PN.

‘Harapan Nasional’

Monday: With the clock ticking on the palace’s 2pm deadline, stunning photos circulate online of leaders from the opposing BN and PH groups, including Zahid and Mr Anwar, meeting in a Kuala Lumpur hotel.

MPs from both parties together will hit the 112 magic figure, and chatter surrounding a “Harapan Nasional” government grows.

(From left) Former Malaysia PM Ismail Sabri Yaakob and Mr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi meet Pakatan Harapan leader Anwar Ibrahim, in Kuala Lumpur, on Nov 21, 2022. PHOTO: PAKATAN HARAPAN

The apparent thawing of relations comes after both coalitions warred fiercely on the campaign trail. Numerous BN leaders touted a “No Anwar, No DAP” stance, referring to the Democratic Action Party, while PH warned voters about the need to rid Malaysia of the corruption-ridden BN.

No conclusion is reached during the meeting. BN leaders remain split between supporting PN and PH to lead the government, with sources saying up to 11 MPs have signed statutory declarations to back Mr Muhyiddin as prime minister, while Zahid is accused of pledging BN’s support to Mr Anwar without his party’s approval.

Malaysia’s palace extends the deadline for parties to demonstrate their majority by 24 hours.

Mr Muhyiddin submits what he later claims to be 114 statutory declarations to the palace, including MPs from GPS, Gabungan Rakyat Sabah and BN.

Unity government

Tuesday: BN, settled in its role as kingmakers, says it will remain a united bloc of 30 lawmakers in the opposition, refusing to back any party to form a government.

GPS appears to climb down from its previous position, saying instead that it will support whoever the King decides should next lead the country. Sabah-based Warisan throws the support of its three MPs behind PH.

With no sign of either PN or PH having the required numbers to form the government, the King summons Mr Muhyiddin and Mr Anwar to the palace.

After the meeting, PH chief Anwar says no decision has been made, amid rumours that he has been appointed interim premier.

PN’s Muhyiddin reveals he has rejected a proposal from the King to form a unity government comprising lawmakers from the two leading parties, reiterating that his party now had the backing of 115 MPs.

BN the kingmakers

Wednesday: BN and GPS leaders are the latest to be called to the palace for a meeting, which is later revealed to have centred upon the King asking the two blocs to consider supporting a unity government.

Umno president Ahmad Zahid Hamidi (centre) leaves after a press conference in Kuala Lumpur, on Nov 21, 2022. PHOTO: AFP

Later, in a hotel in Kuala Lumpur, BN leaders hear out a PN counteroffer as they deliberate on which coalition to support.

A 10-point PH proposal has earlier been leaked, promising BN a deputy prime minister post, as well as other key Cabinet portfolios.

Umno’s supreme council meets late into the night as no resolution appears forthcoming for a fourth day after polling.

Breakthrough for Anwar

Thursday: Overnight, Umno’s supreme council appears to reveal the party’s latest stance, as the leadership releases a statement saying it will back a unity government not led by PN.

GPS and, belatedly, PN, say they will lend support to the unity administration.

In an attempt to break the political impasse, Sultan Abdullah holds a conference with his fellow Malay rulers that culminates in the palace selecting Mr Anwar as the country’s next leader.

After a 24-year struggle involving two prison stints and an ignominious sacking as a former deputy premier, Mr Anwar is sworn in as Malaysia’s 10th prime minister.

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