Reformist leader Anwar appointed Prime Minister of Malaysia

By EILEEN NG – Associated Press

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AP) — The king of Malaysia on Thursday appointed reformist opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim as the country’s prime minister.

Sultan Abdullah Sultan Ahmad Shah said Anwar will be sworn in as the country’s 10th leader at the palace at 5 pm (09:00 GMT).

Anwar’s Alliance of Hope led Saturday’s election with 82 seats, short of the 112 needed for a majority. An unexpected wave of ethnic Malaysian support saw former Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin’s right-leaning National Alliance win 72 seats, with its ally the Pan-Malaysian Islamic Party becoming the largest party with 49 seats.

The stalemate was resolved after the long-ruling bloc led by the United Malays National Organization agreed to support a unity government under Anwar. Such collaboration was once unthinkable in Malaysian politics, long dominated by rivalry between the two sides. Other influential groups on the island of Borneo have said they will follow the king’s decision.

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“His Royal Highness reminds all parties that the winners don’t win everything and the losers don’t lose everything,” the palace said in a statement. The monarch urged Anwar and his new government to be humble, saying all opposing sides should reconcile to ensure a stable government and end the political turmoil in Malaysia, which has been raging since the polls 2018 has led to three prime ministers.

The palace’s statement said the king was satisfied that Anwar is the candidate likely to be supported by the majority, but did not provide details about the new government.

Police have tightened security across the country as social media warned of racial strife if Anwar’s multi-ethnic bloc wins.

Anwar’s rise to the top will ease fears of further Islamization. But he faces the big task of bridging the racial divides that have deepened after Saturday’s poll, and reviving an economy struggling with rising inflation and a currency that has fallen to its weakest point. Malays make up two-thirds of Malaysia’s population of 33 million, including large ethnic Chinese and Indian minorities.

“He will have to compromise with other actors in the government, which means the reform process will be more inclusive,” said Bridget Welsh, a political expert in South East Asia. “Anwar is a globalist, which will assure international investors. He will be seen as a bridge-builder between communities, who will test his leadership, but at the same time lend a reassuring hand to the challenges Malaysia will face.

It marked a second victory for Anwar’s reformist bloc. It won the 2018 elections that led to the first regime change since Malaysia’s independence from Britain in 1957. But the government collapsed after Muhyiddin defected and joined hands with UMNO to form a new government. Muhyiddin’s government was beset by internal rivalries and he resigned after 17 months. UMNO leader Ismail Sabri Yaakob was then chosen as prime minister by the king.

Many rural Malays fear that they will lose their privileges with greater pluralism under Anwar. Fed up with corruption and infighting in UMNO, many chose Muhyiddin’s bloc in Saturday’s vote.

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