Reformist Leader Sworn in as Malaysian Prime Minister

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Long-time opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim was sworn in as Malaysia’s prime minister Thursday in a victory for political reformers locked in a battle with Malay nationalists for days after the divisive general election produced a hung Parliament. Broadcast live on national television, Anwar took his oath of office Thursday evening in a simple ceremony at the national palace. Malaysia’s king, Sultan Abdullah Sultan Ahmad Shah, named Anwar, 75, as the nation’s 10th leader after saying he was satisfied that Anwar is the candidate who is likely to have majority support, the AP reports. Anwar’s Alliance of Hope led Saturday’s election with 82 seats, short of the 112 needed for a majority.

An unexpected surge of ethnic Malay support propelled former Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin’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 long-ruling bloc 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. Other influential groups in Borneo island have said they will follow the king’s decision. “His Royal Highness reminds all parties that the winners do not win all and the losers do not lose everything,” a palace statement said


The monarch said all opposing parties should reconcile to ensure a stable government and end Malaysia’s political turmoil, which has led to three prime ministers since 2018. Muhyiddin, 75, has refused to accede defeat. At a news conference, he challenged Anwar to prove that he has the majority support of lawmakers. Anwar is 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. His rise to the top caps his roller-coaster political journey and will ease fears over greater Islamization, the AP notes. But he faces a tall task in bridging racial divides that deepened after Saturday’s poll, as well as reviving an economy struggling with rising inflation and a currency that has fallen to its weakest point. (Read more Malaysia stories.)

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