Skip to main contentSkip to main content
You have permission to edit this article.

New Malaysian PM Anwar vows to heal divided nation, economy

  • Updated
  • 0

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AP) — Long-time reformist leader Anwar Ibrahim was sworn in as Malaysia's prime minister Thursday and vowed to heal a racially divided nation, fight corruption and revive an economy struggling with the rising cost of living.

His rise to the top a was a victory for political reformers who were locked in a battle with Malay nationalists for days after a divisive general election on Saturday produced a hung Parliament. Anwar took his oath of office in a simple ceremony at the national palace that was broadcast on national television.

Malaysia's king, Sultan Abdullah Sultan Ahmad Shah, named Anwar as the nation's 10th leader after saying he was satisfied that Anwar is the candidate who is likely to have majority support.

In his first news conference, Anwar said he would form a unity government comprising his Alliance of Hope that won 82 seats, the National Front with 30 seats and a bloc from eastern Sarawak state with 23 seats. He said that would give him a majority of 135 seats, with other smaller blocs expected to join.

“There is no question about my legitimacy," Anwar said after his rival, former Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin, disputed that he has majority support. Anwar said his government will propose a vote of confidence when Parliament reconvenes Dec. 19.

An unexpected surge of ethnic Malay support propelled Muhyiddin’s right-leaning National Alliance to win 73 seats, with its ally Pan-Malaysian Islamic Party emerging as the biggest single party with 49 seats.

The stalemate was resolved after the National Front, led by the United Malays National Organization, agreed to support a unity government under Anwar. Such a tie-up was once unthinkable in Malaysian politics, long dominated by rivalry between the two parties.

“His Royal Highness reminds all parties that the winners do not win all and the losers do not lose everything,” a palace statement said. Sultan Abdullah urged all opposing parties to reconcile to ensure a stable government and end Malaysia's political turmoil, which has led to three prime ministers since 2018 polls.

The stock market and the Malaysian currency surged following news of Anwar's appointment.

Police had tightened security nationwide as social media posts warned of racial troubles if Anwar’s multiethnic bloc won. Anwar's party has urged supporters to refrain from celebratory gatherings to avoid risk of provocation.

Anwar said he wishes his victory will bring new hope for Malaysians longing for a more equitable nation, and assured majority Malay Muslims that they have nothing to fear. He said his priority will be to strengthen the economy as it faces an expected slowdown next year and fight rising inflation.

Many rural Malays fear they may lose their privileges with greater pluralism under Anwar. Fed up with corruption and infighting in the long-ruling UMNO, many opted for Muhyiddin’s bloc in Saturday’s vote.

“Malaysia is more than six decades old. Every Malaysian regardless of ethnicity, religious belief or region, particularly Sabah and Sarawak, should not be left to feel that they are ignored in any way. None should be marginalized under my administration," he said. Sabah and Sarawak on Borneo Island are among two of the country's poorest states.

Anwar declared Monday a public holiday to mark his bloc's victory.

Anwar’s rise to the top job caps his roller-coaster political journey and will ease fears over greater Islamization. But he faces a tall task in bridging racial divides that deepened after Saturday’s poll, as well as reviving the economy. Malays form two-thirds of Malaysia’s 33 million people, which include large ethnic Chinese and Indian minorities.

“Anwar is a globalist, which will assure international investors. He has been seen to be a bridge builder across communities, which will test his leadership moving forward but at the same juncture offers a reassuring hand for the challenges that Malaysia will face,” said Bridget Welsh, a Southeast Asia political expert at Malaysia's Nottingham University.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken offered his congratulations to Anwar in a statement noting the U.S. looked forward to deepening its friendship with Malaysia.

Anwar, now 75, was a former deputy prime minister whose firing and imprisonment in the 1990s led to massive street protests and a reform movement that became a major political force. Thursday marked his reformist bloc's second victory — its first being historic 2018 polls that led to UMNO's ouster and the first regime change since Malaysia’s independence from Britain in 1957.

Anwar was in prison at the time on a sodomy charge he said was politically motivated. He was pardoned and was due to take over from Mahathir Mohamad. 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 picked by the king as the prime minister.

Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.

* I understand and agree that registration on or use of this site constitutes agreement to its user agreement and privacy policy.

Related to this story

Most Popular

North Korea’s foreign minister has called U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres “a puppet of the United States” for joining U.S.-led condemnation of the North’s recent intercontinental ballistic missile test. U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres earlier called on the North to “to immediately desist" from more provocations after the North's ICBM launch on Friday. North Korean Foreign Minister Choe Son Hui expressed strong regret over Guterres' comments. The U.N. Security Council is scheduled to discuss the North's ICBM test later Monday. But further sanctions are unlikely since Russia and China oppose them.

A Georgia appeals court ruling means that counties can offer early voting this coming Saturday in the U.S. Senate runoff election between Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock and Republican Herschel Walker. The state had argued that allowing voting this Saturday is illegal because it's the day after a state holiday. Warnock’s campaign, the Democratic Party of Georgia and the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee sued last week and a court agreed that voting was allowed. The state appealed that decision, but the Court of Appeals on Monday declined to stay the lower court ruling.

Ukraine’s electricity grid chief is warning of hours-long power outages as Russia zeroed in on Ukraine’s energy infrastructure with renewed artillery and missile attacks. Power supplies have been interrupted to as much as 40% of the population. The Grid operator said Friday that outages could last for several hours with freezing temperatures putting additional pressure on energy networks. Russian forces employed drones, rockets, heavy artillery and warplanes in renewed attacks, killing at least six people. The mayor of Kyiv, however, warned that Ukrainians were only getting more determined to defeat Russian forces after losing heat, power and water in freezing weather.

A Philippine military commander says the Chinese coast guard has forcibly seized apparent Chinese rocket debris that was being towed by the Philippine navy, in the latest confrontation in the disputed South China Sea. Vice Admiral Alberto Carlos says the Chinese vessel twice blocked the Philippine naval boat before seizing the debris by cutting the towing line. China denied there was a forcible seizure and said the debris, which it confirmed was from a Chinese rocket launch, was handed over by Philippine forces after a “friendly consultation.” Chinese coast guard ships have blocked Philippine supply runs in the disputed waters in the past, but seizing material possessed by another nation's navy constitutes a more brazen act.

The British government is denying a report that it is seeking a “Swiss-style” relationship with the European Union that would remove many of the economic barriers erected by Brexit. Health Secretary Steve Barclay said “I don’t recognize” the Sunday Times report. Switzerland has a close economic relationship with the 27-nation EU in return for accepting the bloc’s rules and paying into its coffers. Despite the denial, the new Conservative government led by Prime Minister Rishi Sunak is trying to improve ties with the bloc after years of acrimony. Treasury chief Jeremy Hunt has expressed optimism that U.K.-EU trade barriers would be removed in the coming years. It comes as polls suggest a majority of Britons now think Brexit was a mistake.

Ukraine’s counter-intelligence service, police and the National Guard have searched of one of the most famous Orthodox Christian sites in the capital, Kyiv. The searches Tuesday of the Pechersk Lavra monastic complex were highly unusual — it is a World Heritage site. They came after a priest spoke favorably about Russia – Ukraine’s invader – during a recent service. They also come amid splits in the Orthodox church in Ukraine that have been sharpened by the nine-month Russian invasion. Ukraine's security service said it would not allow incidents that harm the country's security. In Russia, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov accused Ukrainian authorities of “waging a war on the Russian Orthodox Church.”

The leaders of four Central European countries are holding a summit in Slovakia to discuss energy, migration and regional cooperation. But Thursday's meeting in Kosice, Slovakia, could redefine the nature of cooperation of the Visegrad Four regional alliance that has been strained by a divergence of approaches to the war in Ukraine. Fault lines have appeared in the regional bloc, which is made up of Hungary, Poland, the Czech Republic and Slovakia. The reason is Hungary's lukewarm support for Ukraine. The meeting will be the first in months since previous summits were cancelled after being boycotted by Czech and Polish officials. Leaders are expected to pressure Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban to ratify the NATO accession of Finland and Sweden.

The last legal obstacle preventing Congress from obtaining Donald Trump's taxes has fallen. On Tuesday the Supreme Court rejected the former president's plea for an order to prevent the Treasury Department from giving six years of tax returns for Trump and some of his businesses to the Democratic-controlled House Ways and Means Committee. The Biden administration has argued that federal law is clear that the committee has the right to examine any taxpayer’s return. In a message on his social media network, Trump says the Supreme Court’s action creates “terrible precedent for future Presidents.” He accuses the court of becoming “nothing more than a political body" with the country paying the price.

Six former executives of a now-defunct Hong Kong pro-democracy newspaper have pleaded guilty to a collusion charge under the National Security Law that has silenced and jailed most opposition voices in the southern Chinese territory. The staff members of Apple Daily were arrested last year during a crackdown on dissent after Beijing imposed the security law in 2020. They admitted that they had conspired with the newspaper's founder Jimmy Lai to call for an imposition of sanctions or blockade, or engage in other hostile activities against Hong Kong or China. Police took away hard drives and laptops as evidence in a raid at Apple Daily’s offices in June 2021, sending shockwaves across the city’s media. The arrests and freezing of assets led it to cease its operations.

Listen now and subscribe: Apple Podcasts | Google Podcasts | Spotify | RSS Feed | Omny Studio

Get up-to-the-minute news sent straight to your device.


Breaking News

News Alert