Anwar Ibrahim makes history as tenth Malaysian prime minister

Anwar Ibrahim made history as the tenth Prime Minister of Malaysia

Malaysia’s longtime statesman Anwar Ibrahim became the country’s new prime minister on Thursday after the Southeast Asian nation’s palace announced a long-running election deadlock.

After a meeting with state rulers and in accordance with the Malaysian constitution, the king appointed Anwar as the Southeast Asian nation’s tenth prime minister. The king said in an official statement that Anwar will be sworn in at 17:00 local time.

“Regardless of whether you lose the election, I ask you to stand together for our beloved country,” the king said, according to a translation by CNBC.

“It is important that our nation is free from political instability as the country needs a strong and stable government to build our country and strengthen the economy.”

He asked the elected members of parliament to serve the nation well and thanked the state rulers for their help and ideas to resolve the crisis.

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Anwar’s appointment ends a wait of more than 20 years for the former deputy prime minister, who has been an opposition leader amid two decades in prison and political coups.

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Social media erupted as Malaysians sent “tahniah” or congratulations to Anwar. Others wrote “Daulat Tuanku” or “long live the king” on Facebook and Twitter after the king’s decision.

Some netizens said they “closed the day” or “left the office early” to see the inauguration ceremony at Istana Negara, the royal palace.

“It’s about damn time,” one person tweeted. Another said that his parents, who witnessed Anwar’s political struggles, wept over his appointment.

Anwar was former prime minister Mahathir Mohamad’s deputy in the 1990s and was previously jailed for corruption and sex.

Malaysian-listed stocks were in the green ahead of the announcement, but soon after the KLCI gained another notch, rising 3%. Telecommunications group Axiata Group Bhd was among the top gainers, sitting up more than 7% as rubber glove maker Top Glove rose 6%. Genting Malaysia also gained 5.16%, while CIMB rose 3.45%.

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The Malaysian ringgit also gained more than one percent to 4.5070 against the dollar.

Malaysia’s general election on Saturday produced the country’s first hung parliament, prompting the king to ask the leading coalitions to present their alliances on Tuesday to form a government and appoint prime ministers of their choice.

Anwar Ibrahim is one of the campaigners during the 15th general election in Malaysia.

Getty Images | Getty Images News | Getty Images

But Tuesday’s meeting yielded no results, leaving royalist coalitions like Barisan Nasional in chaos over which leading coalition to support.

In Saturday’s election, Anwar’s Pakatan Harapan coalition – the country’s largest – won the most parliamentary seats with 82, but fell short of the 112 needed to form a government. The current ruling coalition Perikatan Nasional is in second place with 73 seats.

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Parties and coalitions must win a simple majority of 112 out of 222 seats in parliament to form a government.

Malaysia has been in political turmoil since Anwar’s Pakatan party won the 2018 election, ending the 60-year rule of Malaysia’s dominant coalition, Barisan Nasional.

Barisan former prime minister and former Barisan Nasional chairman Najib Razak failed to win re-election after falling from grace for his involvement in the multi-billion dollar 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) scandal. Najib was sentenced to 12 years in prison.

But as Anwar prepares to take over the leadership in 2020, some Pakatan members have left to form the rival Perikatan Nasional coalition. The defection led to the collapse of the Pakatan government.

— CNBC’s Jihye Lee contributed to this report.

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