Anwar Ibrahim is appointed Prime Minister of Malaysia after 25 years in prison

Anwar Ibrahim is appointed Prime Minister of Malaysia after 25 years in prison
Anwar Ibrahim is appointed Prime Minister of Malaysia after 25 years in prison

Anwar Ibrahim is appointed Prime Minister of Malaysia after 25 years in prison

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The leader of the Hope Coalition, veteran Malaysian dissident Anwar Ibrahim, has been sworn in as the new prime minister after several days of political deadlock in the country following the recent elections.

King Sultan Abdullah, the leader of the opposition, was put in charge of forming the new government after elections were held over the weekend that resulted in a divided parliament in which neither of the country’s two main parties achieved a parliamentary majority.

A statement issued by the palace said His Majesty the King has approved the appointment of Anwar Ibrahim as Prime Minister of Malaysia after consultation with the Board of State Governors.

Neither the two main competing coalitions, the one led by Anwar Ibrahim and the one led by former Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin, managed to win enough seats to form a government.

The reformist Hope Alliance won 82 seats, while the United Malay National Organization (UMNO) led by Muhyiddin Yassin won 73 seats.

It is still unclear which party the country’s tenth prime minister will form an alliance with to form a government.

The intensive negotiations to agree on a new government lasted five days, during which various alliances were discussed without an agreement being reached.

Anwar Ibrahim’s assignment came after about 25 years of waiting and a decade-long political career in which he nearly achieved the position not once, but twice.

And after being a close ally of Prime Minister and political leader Mahathir Muhammad and his likely successor, the relationship between the two men changed and Anwar Ibrahim was imprisoned during the era of the most prominent Prime Minister in Malaysian history.

This oscillating relationship between the two men was not only responsible for the fate of Anwar Ibrahim, but also for shaping the Malaysian political scene as a whole and Ibrahim’s position in it.

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Anwar Ibrahim has always been a controversial politician in Malaysia

Rapid rise

The name of Anwar Ibrahim, who is now 75 years old, first emerged as a charismatic and charismatic student leader and the founder of the Islamic youth movement in Malaysia.

In 1982, Anwar Ibrahim surprised many by joining the United Malay National Organization (UMNO), the party that had long dominated the country’s political life.

This move proved to be a wise political decision, as Ibrahim quickly climbed the political ladder and held various ministerial posts.

In 1993 he became Deputy Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad and it was widely expected that he would succeed him. However, relations between the two men were strained after the 1997 Asian financial crisis and disagreements arose, particularly over corruption files and the country’s economic situation.

prosecution and imprisonment

In September 1998, Ibrahim was removed from office, leading to public protests against Mahathir. This was the beginning of the emergence of the reform movement that influenced a generation of pro-democracy activists in Malaysia.

Ibrahim was arrested and charged with homosexuality and corruption, which he denied in the ensuing controversial trial.

He was sentenced to six years in prison on corruption charges, sparking a wave of violent street protests.

And a year later, in 2000, he was sentenced to another nine years in prison for homosexual acts with his wife’s driver.

While homosexuality is illegal in Muslim-majority Malaysia, it is rare for a court to make a decision on this basis. Ibrahim’s conviction and verdict drew international criticism, and the verdict was seen as politically motivated.

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Anwar Ibrahim has always had strong support from the opposition’s grass roots

Ibrahim denied the allegations, insisting that there were political motives behind them and that they were part of a smear campaign against him in order to destroy his political future and not to endanger Mahathir Muhammad.

In 2003, Mahathir Muhammad decided to resign as prime minister, and in late 2004 the Malaysian Supreme Court overturned Anwar Ibrahim’s “sodomy” conviction and released him from prison.

Active resistance and new allegations

After his release, Anwar Ibrahim emerged as the main leader of the opposition, which saw remarkable activity and put in a strong showing in the 2008 elections, winning a third of the seats in Parliament and controlling five states in the country.

However, in the same year homosexuality allegations were raised again against the opposition politician, which he described as a new attempt by the government to marginalize him.

Ultimately, in January 2012, a higher court acquitted Ibrahim of these charges for lack of evidence.

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Anwar Ibrahim among his supporters in 2013

In 2013, the Ibrahim-led opposition achieved new victories in elections described as the worst showing of the ruling National Front coalition (Barisan coalition).

But once again Anwar Ibrahim’s political ambitions were thwarted and as he prepared to run in the 2014 general election his previous acquittal was overturned and he was sent back to prison.

sudden return

In a surprising turn of events in 2016, his former opponent, Mahathir Mohamad, announced that he was returning to political life and running for government again.

Mahathir Mohamad, then 92, said he could no longer remain silent about the corruption he accused of then Prime Minister Najib Razak.

But to ensure his return, Mahathir Mohamad made an unexpected deal with Anwar Ibrahim, who was still in prison and well liked by the opposition.

In a highly publicized moment, the two men exchanged a handshake they never expected, ushering in an era of extraordinary political alliances.

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The relationship between Mahathir Muhammad and Anwar Ibrahim went through several ups and downs

Mahathir Muhammad led the Hope Coalition (Pakatan Harapan) which won the historic elections held in 2018 and ended control of the United Malay National Organization (UMNO), the party that ruled the country for 61 years.

The new coalition merged four parties into Malaysia’s first truly multi-ethnic coalition, winning the support of the country’s Muslim-Malay majority and the country’s large Chinese and Indian minorities.

Mahathir Muhammad, who returned to the post of Prime Minister in Malaysia, promised Ibrahim’s release and kept his promise of a full pardon for the imprisoned politician. He also indicated that he would hand over power to Ibrahim within two years.

A new beginning

But dangers began to surround the alliance’s future when Mahathir Muhammad, the ninetieth man, began frequently changing the rules governing the transfer of power. And the coalition began to crumble amid a bitter internal struggle over the Mahathir succession and the return of the Malaysian nationalist trend.

In February 2020, Mahathir’s unexpected resignation led to the collapse of the coalition, plunging the country into an unprecedented period of political turmoil and once again leaving Ibrahim powerless and empty-handed.

After the collapse of the new government, the United Malay National Organization returned to power and Muhyiddin Yassin was appointed Prime Minister.

But just over a year later, at the height of the coronavirus outbreak, Muhyiddin resigned after tumultuous months during which he lost a majority in parliament.

In October 2022, his successor, Ismail Sabri Yaqub, announced the organization of early elections and UMNO was confident that it would return to power by winning a series of by-elections.

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Anwar Ibrahim addresses the press after announcing his mandate to form a government and his wife appears behind him

But those expectations were not met, and the Pakatan Harapan coalition led by Anwar Ibrahim gained more seats in parliament despite lacking the majority needed to form a government.

Although Anwar Ibrahim has been tasked with forming the government, the path is still fraught with challenges to face as he needs to form an adequate governing coalition, and there will no doubt be difficulties in promoting a more pluralistic and inclusive Malaysia amid rising Islamism.


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