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Malaysia’s opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim was named prime minister on Thursday, the royal palace announced. The country had been in a political stalemate since the legislative elections of November 19 which had given no majority to any of the three major coalitions in the running.
Reformist leader Anwar Ibrahim has been appointed Prime Minister of Malaysia, the Royal Palace announced on Thursday (November 24th), ending a long uncertainty after Saturday’s legislative elections which did not give a majority to any party.
Anwar Ibrahim, who has served as the main opposition leader until now, has been named “Malaysia’s tenth prime minister”, the royal palace said in a statement. He was due to take the oath on Thursday at 5 p.m. (9 a.m. GMT). Anwar Ibrahim thus realizes at 75 his dream of becoming Prime Minister, which he has cherished for a quarter of a century and which crowns a turbulent political career. Deputy Prime Minister in the 1990s, he spent almost ten years in prison for sodomy and bribery, politically motivated charges that were intended to end his career, he says.
Pakatan Harapan (Alliance of Hope), the multi-ethnic reformist coalition led by Anwar Ibrahim, achieved the best result in Saturday’s legislative elections with 82 seats. But it remains far from an absolute majority, in a Parliament of 222 seats.
Malaysia’s King Sultan Abdullah Ahmad Shah summoned former Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin to Anwar Ibrahim Palace on Wednesday, whose Perikatan Nasional (National Alliance) party came second in the elections with 73 seats. According to the second, the sovereign had asked the two men to form a “unity government”. Perikatan Nasional is backed by the Pan-Malaysian Islamic Party (PAS), which advocates strict application of Sharia law.
Anwar Ibrahim also began negotiations on Monday with the party that has been in power until now, Barisan Nasional. Led by the United Malay National Organization (Umno), this formation came far behind with 30 seats, its worst electoral result since the country’s independence in 1957. The King of Malaysia has the discretionary power to appoint a Prime Minister whom he thinks he has the support of the majority of MPs.
Waltz of governments
Malaysia, predominantly Muslim with significant Chinese and Indian minorities, is a constitutional monarchy with a unique system of rotating the throne every five years among the rulers of Malaysia’s nine states.
For four years, the country has been shaken by political turbulence and a waltz of governments, which has led to three Prime Ministers succeeding each other in four years.
After more than sixty years in power, Umno was heavily sanctioned at the ballot box and ousted from power in 2018, marking the first alternation in the country’s history. The then Prime Minister Najib Razak, implicated in the embezzlement of several billion dollars from the sovereign wealth fund 1MDB, is currently serving a twelve-year prison sentence.
Umno had returned to business with a narrow majority in 2021. It was in the hope of strengthening its grip on power that Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob dissolved parliament and called snap elections, originally scheduled for September 2023. But Unmo still suffers from its association with the vast corruption scandal 1MDB, a fund that was supposed to contribute to the country’s development.