New Malaysian PM Anwar vows to heal divided nation, economy

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AP) — Longtime reform leader Anwar Ibrahim Malaysia’s prime minister was sworn in on Thursday, vowing to heal the racially divided nation, fight corruption and revive an economy plagued by rising costs of living.

His rise to the top was a victory for political reformers battling Malaysian nationalists in Saturday’s general election. Anwar was sworn in on national television in a simple ceremony at the State House.

Malaysia’s King Sultan Abdullah has named Sultan Ahmad Shah Anwar as the country’s 10th leader after saying he was satisfied he was the candidate most likely to win majority support.

At the first press conference, Anwar announced that he would form a unity government consisting of the Alliance of Hope, which won 82 seats, the National Front, which had 30 seats, and Eastern Sarawak, which had 23 seats. He said this would give him a majority of 135 seats, with other smaller blocs expected to join.

“There is no doubt about my legitimacy,” Anwar said after arguing that his rival, former prime minister Muhyiddin Yassin, had majority support. Anwar said his government would face a vote of confidence when parliament reconvenes on December 19.

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The surprise Malay surge saw Muhidid’s right-wing National Alliance with 73 seats, while its ally, the Pan-Malaysian Islamic Party, emerged as the single largest party with 49 seats.

The impasse was resolved after the National Front, led by the United Malays National Organization, agreed to support the Anwar-led unity government. Such an alliance was unthinkable in Malaysian politics, long dominated by two-party rivalry.

“Your Highness reminds all parties that winners do not win all and losers do not lose all,” the palace said in a statement. Sultan Abdullah has called on all opposition parties to reconcile in order to keep the government stable in an effort to end Malaysia’s political turmoil, which has seen three prime ministers since the 2018 poll.

Stock markets and the Malaysian currency rallied after the news of Anwar’s appointment.

Police have stepped up security across the country after reports on social media that Anwar’s multi-ethnic coalition would face racial discrimination if it wins. Anwar’s party urged supporters not to hold festive gatherings to avoid the risk of incitement.

Anwar said he wanted his victory to bring new hope to Malaysians longing for a more egalitarian state, assuring the Muslim majority in Malaysia that they had nothing to fear. As economic growth is expected to slow next year, strengthening the economy and fighting inflation will be his priority, he said.

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Many rural Malays fear that they may lose their privileges with more pluralism under Anwar. Many fed up with corruption and infighting in the long-ruling UMNO voted for Muhyiddin’s bloc in Saturday’s vote.

“Malaysia has a history of more than six years. Regardless of ethnicity, religion or region, every Malaysian should not be neglected or neglected, especially Sabah and Sarawak. “No one should be marginalized under my leadership,” he said. Borneo’s Sabah and Sarawak are two of the poorest states in the country.

Anwar declared Monday a public holiday to celebrate his bloc’s victory.

Anwar’s rise to high office would limit his political trajectory and reduce fears of further Islamization. But after Saturday’s poll, he faces the tall task of closing deep racial divides and reviving the economy. Malays make up two-thirds of Malaysia’s population of 33 million, including large ethnic minorities from China and India.

“Anwar is a globalist who will secure international investors. He has been seen as a bridge-builder across communities, which will test his leadership going forward, but at the same time will help Malaysia cope with the challenges it faces,” said Bridget Welsh, an analyst of Southeast Asian politics at the University of Nottingham Malaysia. .

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In a statement congratulating Anwar, Secretary of State Anthony Blinken noted that the United States looks forward to deepening its friendship with Malaysia.

Anwar, now 75, became a major political force in the 1990s after he was fired and jailed, sparking street protests and a reform movement. On Thursday, his reform bloc celebrated its second victory, the first in a historic 2018 poll that led to the ouster of UMNO and a change of the original regime. Since Malaysia gained independence from Britain in 1957.

At the time, Anwar was in prison for hate crimes with political motives. He was granted amnesty and was supposed to lead Mahathir Mohamad. But the government collapsed after Muhiddin defected and formed a new government with UMNO. Muhyiddin’s government was mired in internal competition and resigned after 17 months. The king then chose UMNO leader Ismail Sabri Yacob as prime minister.

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