New Malaysian PM Anwar vows to heal divided nation, economy

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AP) – Reformist leader Anwar Ibrahim He was sworn in as Malaysia’s prime minister on Thursday, vowing to heal a racially divided nation, fight corruption and revive an economy struggling with rising living costs.

His rise to the top marks a victory for political reformers who have been locked in a battle with Malay nationalists for days after Saturday’s explosive general election. Anwar took the oath in a simple ceremony at the national palace that was broadcast on national television.

Malaysia’s King, Sultan Abdullah Sultan Ahmad Shah, said he was satisfied that Anwar was the candidate who would gain the support of the majority, naming him the country’s 10th leader.

In his first press conference, Anwar said he would form a unity government consisting of the Alliance of Hope, which has 82 seats, the National Front, which has 30 seats, and the eastern bloc of Sarawak, which has 23 seats. He said this would give him a majority of 135 seats, with other smaller blocs expected to be added.

“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 propose a vote of confidence when parliament reconvenes on December 19.

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A surprise surge in ethnic Malay support saw Muhyiddin’s right-wing National Alliance win 73 seats, with its partner the Pan-Malaysian Islamic Party the single largest party with 49 seats.

The impasse was resolved when the National Front, led by the United Malaysia National Organization, agreed to support a unity government under Anwar. Such a link was once unthinkable in Malaysian politics, long dominated by competition between the two parties.

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

The stock market and the Malaysian currency rose on the news of Anwar’s appointment.

Police have stepped up security across the country as social media warned of racial tensions if Anwar’s multi-ethnic bloc wins. Anwar’s party urged supporters to stay away from festive gatherings to avoid the risk of provocation.

Anwar said he wanted his victory to bring new hope to Malaysians longing for a just state, assuring the majority of Malay Muslims that they had nothing to fear. He said strengthening the economy, which is facing an expected slowdown next year, and fighting rising inflation will be his priorities.

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

“Malaysia is more than six decades old. Every Malaysian, regardless of nationality, religious belief or region, especially Sabah and Sarawak, should not feel like they are being ignored. “No one should be marginalized in my administration,” he said. Sabah and Sarawak on the island of Borneo are two of the poorest states in the country.

Anwar declared Monday a day off to celebrate his blog’s victory.

Anwar’s promotion to the top job will limit his political travel and reduce the risk of Islamization. But he faces a big task in closing the racial divide that has deepened since Saturday’s poll, as well as revitalizing the economy. Malays make up two-thirds of Malaysia’s 33 million people, including large ethnic Chinese and Indian minorities.

“Anwar is a globalist, which convinces international investors. He has been seen as a bridge-builder between communities, which will test his leadership going forward, but also provide convincing support for the challenges Malaysia will face,” said Bridget Welsh, a Southeast Asia policy expert at the University of Nottingham, Malaysia. .

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

Anwar, now 75, was a former deputy prime minister whose sacking and imprisonment in the 1990s led to mass street protests and a reform movement that has become a major political force. Thursday marked a second victory for his reformist bloc — the first in a historic 2018 poll that toppled UMNO and led to the first regime change. Since Malaysia gained independence from Britain in 1957.

At the time, Anwar was in prison on charges of prostitution, which he believed to be political persecution. He was to receive a pardon and assume the duties of Mahathir Mohamad. But the government collapsed after Muhyiddin stepped down and joined hands with UMNO to form a new government. Muhyiddin’s government resigned after 17 months due to internal rivalries. The king then chose UMNO leader Ismail Sabri Yacob as prime minister.

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