Malaysia’s longtime opposition leader Anwar appointed prime minister

Malaysia’s king named reformist opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim as the country’s prime minister on Thursday, ending days of uncertainty after divisive general elections produced a hung parliament.

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“Having considered the views of Their Royal Highnesses the Malaysian Rulers, His Majesty has given his consent to appoint Anwar Ibrahim as the tenth Prime Minister of Malaysia,” the statement said.

A general election on Saturday ended in an unprecedented parliament in which neither of two main alliances, one led by Anwar and the other ex-prime minister Muhyiddin Yassin, could immediately secure enough seats in parliament to form a government.

Anwar’s appointment caps a three-decade journey from heir to a prisoner convicted of sodomy to longtime opposition leader.

His Alliance of Hope coalition led Saturday’s election with 82 seats, short of the 112 needed for a majority. Former Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin’s right-wing National Alliance won 73 seats, and its ally the Pan-Malaysian Islamic Party emerged as the largest single party with 49 seats.

The decision on the prime minister came to King Al-Sultan Abdullah Sultan Ahmad Shah, after both Anwar and Muhyiddin missed their Tuesday afternoon deadline to forge an alliance.

The constitutional monarch plays a largely ceremonial role but can appoint a prime minister he believes will have a majority in parliament.

Anwar eventually emerged victorious after other smaller blocs agreed to back him for a unity government. His rise to the top will ease concerns in the multiracial nation about greater Islamization under Muhyiddin and raise hopes that reforms for better governance will resume.

The post of Prime Minister after years in prison

Over the course of a long political career, the 75-year-old Anwar has been repeatedly denied the prime ministership despite falling within striking distance over the years: he was deputy prime minister in the 1990s and the official prime minister-in-waiting in 2018.

In between, he spent nearly a decade in prison for sodomy and corruption in what he says were politically motivated charges aimed at ending his career.

Uncertainty surrounding the election threatened to prolong political instability in the Southeast Asian country, which has had three prime ministers in as many years, and risk delaying policy decisions needed to promote economic recovery.

Malay Muslims make up two-thirds of Malaysia’s 33 million people, which include large ethnic Chinese and Indian minorities. Many rural Malays fear they may lose their privileges with greater pluralism under Anwar

(Axadle with AFP, AP and Reuters)

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