Anwar Ibrahim appointed as Malaysia’s 10th prime minister

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Malaysian opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim was on Thursday appointed prime minister, the sultan’s palace said.

He will be sworn in at 5pm local time (0900 GMT), said King Sultan Abdullah Sultan Ahmad Shah.

Mr Ibrahim’s Alliance of Hope led Saturday’s election with 82 seats. It, however, fell short of the 112 needed for a majority, leading to a hung parliament that renewed a leadership crisis in Malaysia, which has had three prime ministers since 2018.

Former prime minister Muhyiddin Yassin’s right-leaning National Alliance won 73 seats, with its ally Pan-Malaysian Islamic Party emerging as the biggest single party with 49 seats. Known as PAS, it backs Islamic Shariah, rules three states.

The stalemate was resolved after the long-ruling bloc led by the United Malays National Organization (UMNO) agreed to support a unity government under Mr Ibrahim. 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 read. The monarch urged Mr Ibrahim and his new government to be humble, and 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 the 2018 polls.

The palace statement said the king was satisfied Mr Ibrahim is the candidate who is likely to have majority support but didn’t give details of the new government.

Police have tightened security nationwide as social media warned of racial troubles amid his rise.

His ascent is, however, expected to ease anxieties in the multiracial nation over greater Islamization under Mr Yassin and spark hope that reforms for better governance will resume.

Earlier, UMNO reversed its decision to remain in the opposition, saying it will heed the king’s proposal for a unity government.

UMNO’s secretary-general Ahmad Maslan said today the party’s highest decision-making body has decided to now support a unity government that is not led by Mr Yassin’s camp. He said the party will accept any unity government or any other form of government decided by the king.

UMNO holds 26 seats and four others are held by component parties in its National Front alliance. It is unclear if the other party members have agreed to go along with UMNO’s decision.

But PAS leader Abdul Hadi Awang refused to concede defeat, urging followers to stay calm. “We are working on it. We are still in the lead. They plan. Allah plans. We are on the right side. God willing we will be protected, the country will be protected,” he wrote on Facebook.

Malay Muslims are two-thirds of Malaysia‘s 33 million people, who include large ethnic Chinese and Indian minorities.

Earlier in 2018, Mr Ibrahim’s reformist alliance won the elections that led to the first regime change since Malaysia‘s independence from Britain in 1957.

But the government collapsed after Mr Yassin defected and joined hands with UMNO to form a new government. Mr Yassin’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.

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

Additional reporting from the wires

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