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Malaysia's Mahathir congratulates rival Anwar on appointment as prime minister

Malaysia's Mahathir congratulates rival Anwar on appointment as prime minister

Mahathir Mohamad (right) shakes hands with Anwar Ibrahim in Putrajaya, Malaysia on Feb 22, 2020 (File Photo: AP/Vincent Thian)

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia's veteran politician and former leader Mahathir Mohamad on Friday (Nov 25) congratulated his longtime rival Anwar Ibrahim in a message on Twitter on his appointment as prime minister.

The pair's on-off feuds have dominated Malaysian politics for the past two decades. Anwar was appointed as prime minister by Malaysia's king on Thursday after an inconclusive election. 

Anwar is expected to start discussions on forming his Cabinet as he begins work on Friday as prime minister at a challenging time, with the economy slowing and the country deeply split after a close election.

The 75-year-old was sworn in as prime minister on Thursday, capping a three-decade political journey from a protege of veteran leader Mahathir Mohamad to protest leader, a prisoner convicted of sodomy and opposition figurehead.

Anwar, who was appointed by Malaysia's king following an inconclusive election, said that the people of Malaysia had long been awaiting change.

"We will never compromise on good governance, the anti-corruption drive, judicial independence and the welfare of ordinary Malaysians," he said late on Thursday.

Anwar's appointment ends five days of unprecedented post-election crisis but could usher in further instability with his rival, former prime minister Muhyiddin Yassin, challenging him to prove his majority in parliament.

Both men's coalitions failed to win a majority in Saturday's election, but Malaysia's constitutional monarch, King Al-Sultan Abdullah, appointed Anwar after speaking to several lawmakers.

The campaign pitted Anwar's progressive, multi-ethnic coalition against Muhyiddin's mostly conservative ethnic-Malay, Muslim alliance.

The uncertainty over the election had threatened to exacerbate instability in Malaysia, which has had three prime ministers in as many years, and also risked delaying policy decisions needed to foster economic recovery.

ALLIANCE OF SUPPORT

Anwar's coalition, known as Pakatan Harapan, won the most seats on the Nov 19 vote with 82, while Muhyiddin's Perikatan Nasional bloc won 73. They needed 112 - a simple majority - to form a government.

The long-ruling Barisan Nasional bloc won only 30 seats - the worst electoral performance for a coalition that had dominated politics since independence in 1957.

Mr Anwar said Barisan Nasional and an alliance of parties from Borneo had pledged support, giving him a convincing majority.

Muhyiddin's bloc includes the Islamist party PAS, whose electoral gains raised concern within the ethnic Chinese and Indian communities, most of whose members follow other faiths.

Authorities have warned of a rise in ethnic tension since the vote on social media and short video platform TikTok said this week was on high alert for content that violated its guidelines.

The most immediate issue facing Anwar beyond picking a Cabinet will be the budget for next year, which was proposed before the election was called but has yet to be passed.

Anwar said he would convene parliament on Dec 19 for a vote of confidence to prove his majority in the lower house.

Source: Reuters/rj
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