Anwar Ibrahim named Malaysia’s 10th prime minister

Explanation

SINGAPORE – The wait is over. And this is the return.

Nearly a week after Malaysia’s general election, parliament has been hung, apparently by opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim to form the next government of the Southeast Asian country, it will gain enough support among the separate parties and prevent the rise of more conservative political forces – for now.

Anwar’s nomination as prime minister on Thursday ended a tumultuous election season that saw the fall of political titan Mahathir Mohamad, stunning victories by a right-wing Islamist party and endless clashes between potential allies that largely fueled it. Disgraced former prime minister Najib Razak was convicted on charges of money laundering and abuse of power.

Malaysia’s king said on Thursday morning after consulting state-level rulers that he had approved Anwar’s appointment as the country’s 10th prime minister, and Anwar was sworn in hours later. In Malaysia, a parliamentary democracy with a constitutional monarchy, the king officially appoints the head of government.

The appointment, which has been disputed by some opponents, is a dramatic comeback for Anwar, 75, an international figure whose political rise, fall and comeback spanned generations.

Anwar founded the country’s Reformasi political movement, which has been rallying for social justice and equality since the 1990s. He is also known as a supporter of Muslim democracy and has previously expressed dismay at Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who was once seen as a moderate democrat. Islam is the state religion in Muslim-majority Malaysia, which has significant economic and security ties with the United States, but other religions are widely practiced.

This Malaysian politician was imprisoned and convicted. He is now on the threshold of power.

A former deputy prime minister of Mahathir, who was later considered his arch-rival until reconciliation, Anwar struggled for decades to reach the country’s highest political office. Along the way, he won the support and friendship of international leaders, such as former US Vice President Al Gore. He has also served two lengthy prison terms on charges of misconduct and corruption – charges Anwar and his supporters say are politically motivated.

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Anwar’s multi-ethnic reformist coalition Pakatan Harapan (PH), or the Coalition of Hope, won 82 seats after last week’s election. The alliance was the largest single bloc, but was still a few dozen seats shy of the 112 seats needed to form a majority. It ran against Perikatan Nasional (PN), a right-wing coalition that won 73 seats, to convince voters – as well as the country’s monarch, Sultan Abdullah of Pahang – that it has the authority to form the next government.

Anwar’s accession was made possible after the conservative Barisan Nasional coalition, which has governed Malaysia for most of its post-independence history, said it would not participate in a PN government. Barisan Nasional won 30 seats in the last polls and became the king.

Analysts say that even if Anwar has won, he now faces a tough challenge in uniting the country’s divided electorate.

“Polarization [in Malaysia] remains strong,” said Bridget Welsh, a research fellow at the University of Nottingham’s Asia-Malaysia Research Institute. She said that while Anwar has a strong image on the international stage, he has a “weak mandate” at home.

Anwar opposes the race-based affirmative action policies that have been a hallmark of previous Barisan Nasional governments. Policies that favor Malaysian Muslims are seen by some analysts as creating a broad middle class in the country of 32.5 million people. But critics accuse the laws of inciting racial hatred, driving young people from Malaysia’s Indo-Chinese minority out of the country and creating systemic corruption.

On the eve of the election, PN leader and former prime minister Muhyiddin Yassin made anti-Semitic claims that Anwar’s coalition was working with Jews and Christians to “Christianize” Malaysia.

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Malaysian Council of Churches condemned The words of Muhiddin and Anwar criticized their opponent’s comments. “I urge Muhyiddin to be a mature leader and not use racial propaganda to divide the different reality in Malaysia,” he said on Twitter.

After Anwar’s appointment was announced, Muhyiddin held a press conference in which he challenged his rival to prove he had the numbers to rule. He claimed that his coalition has the support of 115 members of parliament, which constitute the majority.

Regardless of whether they supported him, the appointment of a new prime minister would allow Malaysia to put an end to two years of political turmoil that have seen the resignation of two prime ministers, allegations of a power grab and snap elections in the middle of the tropics. monsoon season of the country. After the polls closed and it became clear that no single bloc could command a majority alone, confusion spread over who would lead the country. The king called the party leaders to the palace for hours of closed-door debate, delaying his decision day after day.

“We have been waiting for some time for stability and the restoration of democracy,” said Adrian Pereira, a labor rights activist from the western state of Selangor. Voters are still anxious to see what coalition Anwar builds and how power-sharing will work, “but for now, it’s kind of a relief for everybody,” he said.

Rafiz Ramli, deputy chairman of Anwar’s party, said on Thursday that the new prime minister would lead a “unity government”.

“We must all move forward and learn to work together to rebuild Malaysia,” he said statement who also called on Malaysia to reduce political tension by avoiding “provocative” messages and gatherings.

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Analysis: Most people do not know enough about Malaysia and its government. This is what you need to understand.

Among the election’s biggest surprises was a surge in support for the Islamic Party of Malaysia, known as PAS, which more than doubled its seats in parliament from 18 to 49. The party, which participated in the delegation of PN Muhiddin., advocates ultimate Islamic rule in Malaysia and has acted as a power broker in recent years, collaborating with other parties that support pro-Malaysian-Muslim policies.

While Anwar’s coalition rules, PAS will be the single largest party in the lower house of parliament.

Before Anwar was sworn in on Thursday evening, PAS leader Abdul Hadi Awang issued a statement they thank the voters for their support. “People are increasingly accepting the 71 years of the party’s struggle in Malaysia,” he said.

James Chin, a University of Tasmania professor who studies Malaysian politics, said he was “surprised” by PAS’s electoral success, which he saw as a reflection of the widespread rise of political Islam in Malaysia.

China said that while Malaysia and neighboring Indonesia have long presented themselves as moderate Islamic nations, that may now change. PAS has made its strongest gains in the countryside, he noted, and there is early evidence that it has gained support from new voters, including young Malaysians. Liberal and non-Malay-Muslim voters are now worried that the powerful PAS is positioned to expand its influence, including in the country’s education policy.

“I knew that PAS had strong support in the Malaysian heartland … But I still didn’t know that they could expand so quickly,” Chin said. “Nobody did.”

Katerina Ang reported from Seoul and Emily Ding from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Hari Raj in Seoul contributed to this report.



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