Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim is at the peak of his stormy political career
Reformist leader Anwar Ibrahim was appointed Prime Minister of Malaysia by the Royal Palace on Thursday. A high point for the 75-year-old after a tumultuous political career with multiple camp changes and prison stints.
The eternal leader of the opposition, Anwar Ibrahim, who was arrested several times before rising from the ashes, finally reaches the post of Prime Minister of Malaysia, which he has dreamed of for years. Malaysian King Sultan Abdullah Ahmad Shah appointed him head of government on November 24 after his multi-ethnic and reformist party Pakatan Harapan (Alliance of Hope) won the most seats in parliament in Saturday’s legislative elections.
At 75, Anwar Ibrahim is at the height of a particularly tumultuous political journey that has spanned four decades and included several stints in prison – frequently switching sides throughout his career.
A stay in prison since the 1970s
Anwar Ibrahim, an MP from Penang state (in the north) and the son of a political leader, became known as a Muslim student leader in the 1970s. His participation in rural hunger demonstrations earned him his first prison sentence under the authoritarian regime.
In 1982, he surprised his supporters by joining the United Malays National Organization (Umno), which had traditionally dominated Malaysian political life since independence in 1957. He was quickly noticed by Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, who had been in power there since 1981. 2003.
A born politician and witty orator, he quickly rose through the ranks and moved into government. He became finance minister in 1991, presenting himself as a reformer and praising the West. Two years later, he became the deputy prime minister. But disagreements with Mahathir Mohamad over the handling of the Asian financial crisis in 1997-1998 ended badly.
Anwar Ibrahim, who was sacked by the then prime minister, was later sentenced to six years in prison for corruption and an additional nine years for sodomy, which is a crime in this Muslim country. Above all, Mahathir’s impatience to replace Mohamad would have earned him the wrath of his former protégé, according to some observers. His arrest led to demonstrations by his supporters. These protests quickly turned into a movement for democratic reforms.
His black-eyed photographs taken by the then police chief in prison have been published in newspapers around the world, making him a “Reform!” (“Reforms!”)
The rivalry between Mahathir Mohamad and Anwar Ibrahim has dominated and shaped Malaysian politics for the past four decades, “bringing the country’s politics alternately despair and hope, progress and regression,” says Oh Ei Sun of the Malaysian Center for Pacific Studies.
In 2004, the Supreme Court overturned the charge of immorality against the released politician.
Full royal pardon
After a brief hiatus from university, he returned to the political scene to lead an opposition coalition in the 2013 general election, where his alliance won 50.87% of the vote, but failed to gain enough MPs to secure a majority in parliament.
The controversy over the father of six continues. Convicted of sodomy again in 2015, this time sentenced to five years in prison, she pleaded not guilty and received a full royal pardon three years after her sentence began. He returned to parliament a few months later, winning re-election.
Anwar Ibrahim is re-alliing with Mahathir Mohamad in the 2018 election, when his former nemesis retired to challenge incumbent Prime Minister Najib Razak, mired in the 1MDB financial scandal.
Their alliance is a historic victory over Umno and Najib Razak, who is serving a 12-year prison sentence for corruption. Mahathir Mohamad becomes prime minister again, this time promising to hand over the position to Anwar Ibrahim later. But he never keeps his word, the alliance between the two men collapses after 22 months and Unmo returns to power.
On Saturday, his formation won a snap legislative election with 82 seats, far from an absolute majority in the 222-member parliament, but enough to become Malaysia’s tenth prime minister.