Malaysia’s king on Thursday named reformist opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim as the country’s Prime Minister, ending days of uncertainty after divisive general elections produced a hung Parliament.
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 72 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 Organisation 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.
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The monarch urged Anwar 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 2018 polls.
The palace statement said the king was satisfied Anwar 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 if Anwar’s multiethnic bloc wins.
Anwar’s rise to the top will ease fears over greater Islamisation. 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.
Malays form two-thirds of Malaysia’s 33 million people, which include large ethnic Chinese and Indian minorities.
“He will have to make compromises with other actors in the government that means that the reform process will be a more inclusive one,” said Bridget Welsh, a Southeast Asia political expert.
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“Anwar is a globalist, which will assure international investors. He has been seen to be a bridge builder across communities, which will test his leadership moving forward but at the same juncture offers a reassuring hand for the challenges that Malaysia will face.” It marked a second victory for Anwar’s reformist bloc. It won the 2018 elections, leading to the first regime change since Malaysia’s independence.