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Anwar Ibrahim, the leader of the Pakatan Harapan alliance is chosen to lead the new government in Malaysia. He will be sworn in today at 5 pm, Malaysian time.
Anwar, Malaysia’s prodigal son, has travelled a long road to freedom amid a massive political struggle that has lasted decades. Now he is finally at the gates of Putrajaya and has one last hurdle to overcome.
He has the best chance of becoming Malaysia’s 10th Prime Minister after his first failed attempt in 1998 when Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad demoted him from his deputy PM post and imprisoned him.
Right before the Asian financial crisis, Mahathir brought in the rebels from the Semangat 46 to join him in his government, causing friction between him and Malaysia’s rising political superstar, Anwar Ibrahim.
With the return of those who once challenged Mahathir for the top post in the ethnic Malay party and had formed the opposition S46, the latter helped in strengthening Umno. That was in 1997.
But in 1984, Mahathir won a tough battle against Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah who then left Umno to form the S46, and it was at this point that the various political factions within Umno began to emerge.
Najib Razak was on the sidelines but rising through the ranks of his party. Anwar was one step away from becoming Prime Minister if he could unseat Mahathir, but it was Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah who challenged Mahathir and lost narrowly.
Zahid Hamidi was the force in the Umno youths league and he forged a strong alliance with Anwar only to abandon the latter when things went awry for the “reformasi” leader.
This is how important it is to understand what is currently happening in Malaysia’s politics. Anwar and Zahid are now shaking hands, 25 years after Zahid’s alleged betrayal of Anwar when Mahathir decided to throw him out of the Umno while the 1997 financial crisis was still fresh.
Anwar was the finance minister at the time, and if we believe what global monetary circles say about Anwar’s ability at the post, he was one of the best.
Despite being demoted, beaten in jail with a swollen eye, and ‘left to die,’ to quote Anwar, he had the support of large segments of the Malay community, which almost got Mahathir into trouble in the 1999 elections that saw the entry into politics of Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail, the country’s first female deputy prime minister in 2018.
People did not believe Mahathir’s accusations of sodomy against Anwar at the time, even though Mahathir went to great lengths to describe how ‘gay sex’ is done to gain their support.
Then came Najib Razak, who used the same tactics Mahathir used to get rid of Anwar with sodomy accusations that got the latter in jail again.
In 2018, with Anwar in jail, Mahathir became the head of the Pakatan Harapan and he led Anwar’s formation to victory against Najib.
But Mahathir refused to give the Prime Minister’s post to Anwar and broke an agreement between them. He quit as PM after a massive argument between him and the PH leaders.
After Umno kicked him out of Putrajaya in August 2021, Muhyiddin vowed he would return as PM to prevent Anwar and the DAP from seizing power.
While he was successful in breaking Umno in the Malay belt, allowing PAS to win a massive 49 seats in the Nov 19 elections, he has yet to stop Anwar.
The PH leader is now waiting for Zahid Hamidi’s Barisan Nasional, a close friend turned foe in need of salvation, to decide once and for all to assist Anwar.
Mahathir paid a heavy price for betraying Anwar for the second time. He lost his deposit in the elections and his coalition was crushed to pieces without any elected members and all his candidates too lost their deposits.
Those who followed Muhyiddin and left Anwar’s party to help the latter become PM and stop the PKR leader from taking over in 2020 were also severely punished by voters.
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