Malaysia’s perennial opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim was sworn in as prime minister before the king in Kuala Lumpur on Thursday, ending a five-day political impasse after inconclusive polls.

The ceremony at the palace closes the chapter on one of the most dramatic elections in Malaysia’s history, after no party managed to secure a majority to form a parliament for the first time since independence in 1957.

Anwar’s ascension to the premiership caps a turbulent political life, which has not only propelled him into the corridors of power but also landed him inside a jail cell.

“I, Anwar Ibrahim, after being appointed to hold the position of prime minister, solemnly swear that I will honestly fulfill that duty with all my efforts and that I will devote my true loyalty to Malaysia,” the 75-year-old said while dressed in traditional Malaysian clothing.

Malaysia is often seen as one of the world’s most antisemitic countries. Former prime minister Mahathir Mohamad notoriously said he was glad to be called antisemitic, and alleged that “hook-nosed” Jews run the world.

In the late 1990s, Anwar served as finance chief and deputy prime minister under Mahathir, though the two later became political enemies. He has also been accused of making antisemitic remarks, including alleging while opposition leader that Mossad spies were controlling the Malaysian government and that Jews controlled a public relations firm hired by then-prime minister Najib Razak.

In 2012, he was suspended by the Malaysian parliament for suggesting that a government campaign pushed for by Razak was inspired by a 1999 Israeli election campaign.

Malaysia has no formal ties with Israel, and is considered notably hostile to the Jewish state. Last year, a World Squash Federation championship in Kuala Lumpur was canceled after Malaysian authorities refused to allow entry to Israeli athletes.

In 2012, Anwar told The Wall Street Journal that “I support all efforts to protect the security of the State of Israel,” comments which sparked outrage in Malaysia, which strongly identifies with the Palestinian cause.

Anwar was forced to respond to the comments as they resurfaced during his recent electoral campaign, saying last month that he is “the number one fighter for the Palestinian people in our country.”

He also had to disavow any ties to Israel or the Mossad after Malaysian operatives — one of whom was allegedly affiliated with his party — purportedly working on behalf of the Mossad took part in a botched operation to interrogate a Palestinian man allegedly affiliated with Hamas.

Campaigning on an anti-graft message, Anwar’s multi-ethnic Pakatan Harapan coalition won the most seats in the weekend’s election with 82. But it still fell short of the 112 required for a majority.

In an attempt to break the deadlock, the king had summoned Anwar and former prime minister Muhyiddin Yassin, whose Perikatan Nasional bloc came in second place with 73 seats. But no deal could be struck.

The king held a special meeting with other royals earlier Thursday before the palace announced Anwar as the new premier.

For Anwar, the premiership is the culmination of a 25-year rollercoaster. The firebrand former student activist was first poised to take the reins in the late 1990s, after serving as finance chief and deputy prime minister under Mahathir.

But the two had a bitter falling-out over how to handle the 1997-98 Asian financial crisis. Mahathir sacked his former protege, who was also expelled from their then-party the United Malays National Organization (UMNO), and charged with corruption and sodomy — charges Anwar said were politically motivated.

Anwar was sentenced to six years in jail for corruption in 1999, and given an additional nine on a sodomy charge the following year. Street protests erupted and evolved into a movement for democratic reforms, with Anwar stringing together an opposition coalition from behind bars.

The Mahathir-Anwar tussle has dominated and shaped Malaysian politics over the past four decades, “alternately bringing despair and hope, progress and regress to the country’s polity,” according to Oh Ei Sun of the Pacific Research Center of Malaysia.

The Malaysian Supreme Court overturned Anwar’s sodomy conviction in 2004 and ordered him freed. Anwar re-aligned with Mahathir during the 2018 elections, when his erstwhile foe came out of retirement to challenge incumbent Najib Razak, who was mired in the billion-dollar 1MDB financial scandal.

Their detente scored a historic victory against UMNO and Najib, who is now serving a 12-year jail term for corruption.

Mahathir became prime minister for the second time, with an agreement to eventually hand the premiership to Anwar. He never fulfilled that pact, and their alliance collapsed after 22 months.

In his most recent bid to lead Southeast Asia’s third-largest economy, Anwar once again pledged to end corruption and cultivate multi-ethnic harmony.

I joined The Times of Israel after many years covering US and Israeli politics for Hebrew news outlets.

I believe responsible coverage of Israeli politicians means presenting a 360 degree view of their words and deeds – not only conveying what occurs, but also what that means in the broader context of Israeli society and the region.

That’s hard to do because you can rarely take politicians at face value – you must go the extra mile to present full context and try to overcome your own biases.

I’m proud of our work that tells the story of Israeli politics straight and comprehensively. I believe Israel is stronger and more democratic when professional journalists do that tough job well.

Your support for our work by joining The Times of Israel Community helps ensure we can continue to do so.

Thank you,
Tal Schneider, Political Correspondent

We’re really pleased that you’ve read X Times of Israel articles in the past month.

That’s why we started the Times of Israel ten years ago - to provide discerning readers like you with must-read coverage of Israel and the Jewish world.

So now we have a request. Unlike other news outlets, we haven’t put up a paywall. But as the journalism we do is costly, we invite readers for whom The Times of Israel has become important to help support our work by joining The Times of Israel Community.

For as little as $6 a month you can help support our quality journalism while enjoying The Times of Israel AD-FREE, as well as accessing exclusive content available only to Times of Israel Community members.

Thank you,
David Horovitz, Founding Editor of The Times of Israel

QOSHE - Malaysia gets new PM with history of controversial comments on Jews, Israel - Inna Lazareva
We use cookies to provide some features and experiences in QOSHE

More information  .  Close
Aa Aa Aa
- A +

Malaysia gets new PM with history of controversial comments on Jews, Israel

23 6 23
previous day

Malaysia’s perennial opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim was sworn in as prime minister before the king in Kuala Lumpur on Thursday, ending a five-day political impasse after inconclusive polls.

The ceremony at the palace closes the chapter on one of the most dramatic elections in Malaysia’s history, after no party managed to secure a majority to form a parliament for the first time since independence in 1957.

Anwar’s ascension to the premiership caps a turbulent political life, which has not only propelled him into the corridors of power but also landed him inside a jail cell.

“I, Anwar Ibrahim, after being appointed to hold the position of prime minister, solemnly swear that I will honestly fulfill that duty with all my efforts and that I will devote my true loyalty to Malaysia,” the 75-year-old said while dressed in traditional Malaysian clothing.

Malaysia is often seen as one of the world’s most antisemitic countries. Former prime minister Mahathir Mohamad notoriously said he was glad to be called antisemitic, and alleged that “hook-nosed” Jews run the world.

In the late 1990s, Anwar served as finance chief and deputy prime minister under Mahathir, though the two later became political enemies. He has also been accused of making antisemitic remarks, including alleging while opposition leader that Mossad spies were controlling the Malaysian government and that Jews controlled a public relations firm hired by then-prime minister Najib Razak.

In 2012, he was suspended by the Malaysian parliament for suggesting that a government campaign pushed for by Razak was inspired by a 1999 Israeli election........

© The Times of Israel


Get it on Google Play