Anwar Ibrahim: Malaysian prime minister’s exceptional rise prisoner to prime workplace


It’s a political journey a long time within the making – the transformation of a younger pupil firebrand into an icon of democracy and ultimately the chief of his nation, through two stints in jail.

Now age 75, Anwar Ibrahim has lastly realized his dream by turning into the tenth prime minister of Malaysia.

And in his first phrases after being sworn in on Thursday, he made clear he intends to not dwell on the divisions of the previous, however concentrate on the longer term with a cupboard that can embrace his former political foes.

“This can be a nationwide unity authorities and all are welcome on situation (they) settle for the elemental guidelines: good governance, no corruption and a Malaysia for all Malaysians,” Anwar mentioned as he pledged to heal a racially divided nation, battle corruption and revive an economic system nonetheless struggling to get well from the pandemic.

“Nobody ought to be marginalized beneath my administration,” he vowed.

Anwar’s appointment comes almost every week after a tumultuous common election that resulted within the first hung parliament in Malaysian historical past.

His reformist and multi-ethnic Pakatan Harapan coalition gained essentially the most seats in final week’s vote – 82 – however failed to achieve a easy majority wanted to type a authorities, that means Anwar may solely be appointed after the intervention of the Malaysian king.

Observers say he can have his work lower out if he’s to bridge the divisions which have seen him named the fourth prime minister since 2018, when a landmark election dumped the Barisan Nasional coalition out of energy for the primary time since independence amid anger over a multibillion-dollar monetary scandal on the state funding fund.

“This has been by far, essentially the most fragmented, unstable and harmful interval ever in Malaysian politics,” mentioned political commentator Ei Solar Oh. “Whereas many applaud the appointment of a progressive and reformist candidate, it gained’t be the tip to issues.”

“Political wranglings and infighting will nonetheless proceed and Anwar has the duty of getting to heal profound wounds and gaps between the progressives and conservatives,” he added.

Born on August 10, 1947 on the island of Penang, Anwar started his political profession as a pupil activist main varied Muslim youth teams in Kuala Lumpur. He was arrested at one level over his function in main demonstrations in opposition to rural poverty and starvation.

Years later, he shocked many by making a foray into mainstream politics, becoming a member of the Malay nationalist celebration UMNO (United Malays Nationwide Organisation) led by then-prime minister Mahathir Mohamad – a person who would develop into each Anwar’s mentor and nemesis.

Anwar’s rise inside the celebration was speedy and he was quickly elevated to varied high-ranking ministerial positions, turning into deputy prime minister in 1993.

At this level, Anwar was broadly anticipated to succeed Mahathir, however the two males started to conflict over points together with corruption and the economic system.

Tensions additional strained because the 1997 Asian monetary disaster battered the nation and in 1998 Anwar was fired from Mahathir’s Cupboard and expelled from UMNO.

He then started main public protests in opposition to Mahathir – a transfer that signaled the beginning of a brand new pro-democracy motion.

That very same 12 months, Anwar was arrested and detained with out trial, and was charged with corruption and sodomy. Even when consensual, sodomy is an offense punishable by as much as 20 years in jail in Muslim-majority Malaysia.

He has all the time strongly denied the fees, claiming they have been politically motivated, however that has not stopped them from plaguing his political profession ever since.

His subsequent jailing sparked violent avenue protests, with supporters evaluating his plight to that of Nelson Mandela.

That first conviction was overturned by a court docket in 2004, a 12 months after two-time chief Mahathir left workplace for the primary time, but it surely was not the final time Anwar would discover himself behind bars.

After his return as an opposition determine, extra allegations of sodomy have been made in opposition to him and – following a protracted court docket battle that passed off over a interval of years – returned to jail in 2014.

What occurred subsequent is probably one of the vital exceptional turnarounds within the nation’s political historical past.

In a shocking twist – with Anwar nonetheless behind bars – he and Mahathir joined forces for the 2018 election in a bid to topple the federal government of Najib Razak, whose administration had develop into embroiled in a corruption scandal surrounding the state funding fund 1 Malaysia Improvement Berhad (1MDB).

As a part of his marketing campaign pledge, Mahathir vowed that ought to they succeed he would free Anwar and even step apart for him after a few years in energy. Mahathir caught to the primary promise – a royal pardon freed Anwar quickly after the election – however he backtracked on the second, a U-turn that cut up their supporters and fed the stalemate that has dogged all efforts to type a steady authorities since.

Amongst his first pledges as Malaysia’s new prime minister, Anwar mentioned he “wouldn’t take” a wage as a present of solidarity with Malaysians fighting the rising price of dwelling.

He additionally promised to assist the nation embrace multi-culturalism.

Malaysia has lengthy adopted a coverage of institutionalized affirmative motion favoring the ethnic Malay majority over its sizable Chinese language Malaysian and Indian Malaysian minorities.

And overcoming a long time of polarization over race, faith and reform within the Muslim-majority nation won’t come straightforward – not least as a result of consultants don’t rule out makes an attempt by rivals in his new authorities to topple his management.

Whereas two-thirds of Anwar’s cupboard will likely be made up of members of his Pakatan Harapan reformist coalition, in a gesture of nationwide unity he has agreed that the remaining posts will likely be given to members of the regional Gabungan Rakyat Sabah celebration and – maybe extra surprisingly – representatives of the Barisan Nasional coalition, which incorporates a number of UMNO politicians that he did a lot to topple.

“He’s coming into a really uneasy political alliance in a fragmented panorama,” mentioned Oh, the political commentator.

“The latest election outcomes have solely confirmed how divided the nation is.

“He now has the troublesome job of navigating and balancing the progressive sectors with the conservative non secular forces.”

Anwar's swearing-in ceremony takes place at the National Palace in Kuala Lumpur on November 24, 2022.

Internationally, rights teams have welcomed Anwar’s appointment and his pledge to prioritize human rights and democracy.

“This can be a chief who has personally suffered large politically motivated injustices,” mentioned Phil Robertson, Asia deputy director of Human Rights Watch.

Robertson mentioned the rights group hoped Anwar would “convey reforms to legal guidelines and rules which were used up to now to criminalize peaceable train of civil and political rights,” pointing to points like discrimination in opposition to transgender and homosexual communities, the therapy of migrant employees and little one marriage and refugee legal guidelines.

“One hopes that classes have been discovered from the earlier Pakatan Harapan authorities, which faltered after two years in energy,” Robertson mentioned.

“We hope that Anwar will transfer ahead along with his imaginative and prescient, acknowledge that he was elected to behave on his packages and insurance policies, and implement his mandate.”

And domestically, at the least for now, the celebratory temper continues amid optimism that years of political chaos and uncertainty could lastly be up to now.

“Malaysians could be hopeful that the discord that dangers spiraling uncontrolled will get to lose some oxygen now – or at the least it gained’t be coming from hardline nationalists inside UMNO in the intervening time,” mentioned Malaysian journalist Amirul Ruslan, including that “In contrast to Mahathir, I can see (Anwar) transitioning insurance policies away from being race-centric.”

Describing Anwar’s new authorities, comprising former enemies, as “unprecedented”, he added: “Anwar is the fitting man for our divided nation.”