Malaysia’s Anwar becomes prime minister, ending decades-long wait | CNN-EnglishHindiBlogs-News

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Malaysia’s Anwar Ibrahim was sworn in as prime minister on Thursday, completing a three-decade political journey from veteran leader Mahathir Mohamad from supporter to opposition leader, a prisoner convicted of sodomy and opposition leader.

His appointment ends an unprecedented five days of post-election crisis, but could usher in a new wave of instability with his rival, former prime minister Muhyiddin Yassin, challenging him to prove his majority in parliament.

Both men failed to win a majority in Saturday’s election, but the constitutional monarch, King al-Sultan Abdullah, appointed Anwar after speaking to a number of lawmakers.

Anwar takes office at a challenging time: the economy is slowing and the country is divided after a tough election pitting Anwar’s progressive coalition against Muhyiddin’s mostly conservative ethnic-Malay, Muslim coalition.

The market gained momentum after the end of the political impasse. The ringgit currency posted its best day in two weeks and equities rose 3%.

Mark Lourdes reported on the Malaysian election for CNN in 2018

Anwar, 75, has been repeatedly denied the premiership over the years despite striking distance: he was deputy prime minister in the 1990s and official prime minister in 2018.

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

The uncertainty over the election threatens to prolong political instability in the Southeast Asian country, which has had three prime ministers in as many years, and risks delaying policy decisions needed to spur economic recovery.

Anwar was sworn in as Malaysia's prime minister on Thursday, ending a political impasse.

Malaysia's King Sultan Abdullah Sultan Ahmad Shah (right) appointed Anwar (left) after consulting with parliamentarians.

Anwar’s supporters expressed hope that his government would return to historic tensions between the ethnic Malay, Muslim majority and the ethnic Chinese and Indian minorities.

A communications manager in Kuala Lumpur said, “All we want is moderation for Malaysia and Anwar represents that.”

“We cannot have a country that is divided by race and religion because it will set us back another 10 years.”

Anwar told Reuters in an interview before the election that if appointed prime minister he would seek to “emphasize governance and anti-corruption and rid this country of racism and religious bigotry”.

His alliance, known as Pakatan Harapan, won the most seats in Saturday’s vote with 82, while Muhyiddin’s Perikatan Nasional Bloc won 73. He needed 112 – a simple majority – to form a government.

The long-ruling Barisan bloc won only 30 seats – the worst electoral performance for the coalition that has dominated politics since independence in 1957.

Barisan said on Thursday it would not support a government headed by Muhyiddin, although it made no reference to Anwar.

After Anwar’s appointment, Muhyiddin asked Anwar to prove his majority in Parliament.

Anwar has the task of stabilizing rising inflation and containing ethnic tensions following the coronavirus pandemic.

Muhyiddin’s bloc includes the Islamist party PAS, whose electoral gains have raised concerns among members of the ethnic Chinese and ethnic Indian communities, most of whom practice other religions.

Authorities warned after a weekend poll of increased ethnic tensions on social media and short video platform TikTok said it was on high alert for content breaching its guidelines.

Since the election social media users have reported several TikTok posts referencing a riot in the capital, Kuala Lumpur, on May 13, 1969, which left nearly 200 dead, in an election dominated by opposition parties supported by ethnic Chinese voters. A few days after the arrival of

Police asked social media users to avoid “provocative” posts and said they were setting up 24-hour check-points on roads across the country to ensure public peace and safety.

The prime minister’s decision came to King al-Sultan Abdullah Sultan Ahmad Shah after both Anwar and Muhyiddin missed a Tuesday afternoon deadline to keep the ruling coalition together.

The constitutional monarch plays a largely ceremonial role, but may appoint a head of state who he believes will command a majority in parliament.

Malaysia has a unique constitutional monarchy in which kings are elected by rotation from nine state royal families to serve a five-year term.

As premier, Anwar will have to address rising inflation and slowing growth while taming ethnic tensions as the economy recovers from the coronavirus pandemic.

The most immediate issue will be next year’s budget, which was presented ahead of the elections but is yet to be passed.

Anwar will also have to negotiate deals with MPs from other blocs to ensure that he can retain majority support in parliament.

“Anwar has been appointed at a critical juncture in Malaysian history, where politics is at its most fragmented, reeling from a depressed economy and a bitter Covid memory,” said James Chai, visiting fellow at the ISEAS-Yusuf Ishak Institute in Singapore.

“Having always been regarded as the one figure who could unite all warring factions, it is fitting that Anwar emerged during a divisive time.”

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