Malaysians celebrate Anwar Ibrahim’s inauguration as prime minister | Political news

For supporters of Anwar Ibrahim, his appointment as Malaysia’s new prime minister has been a long time coming.

The 75-year-old opposition leader secured the Southeast Asian country’s top job on Thursday after its king intervened in a political impasse that followed last weekend’s inconclusive general election to appoint him as the country’s 10th prime minister.

It was a remarkable comeback for Anwar, who spent nearly three decades in opposition, including 10 years in prison for sodomy and corruption that he claims were politically motivated.

Many Malaysians on Twitter reacted with gleeful disbelief.

“I was at the airport when our 10th was announced this afternoon,” wrote Twitter user @itsraenu_. “I heard people screaming and I saw people smiling from ear to ear.

“Anwar’s revival is something that many future generations should be inspired by,” wrote Twitter user @CHKen_2. “He waited 24 years for this, went through all kinds of political attacks and even had to endure imprisonment – but he never gave up on his principles. Keep believing.”

Former deputy prime minister Anwar looked set to take over the top job in 1998 before he was kicked out of government after falling out with then-prime minister Mahathir Mohamad over his handling of the Asian financial crisis. Anwar was then charged with sodomy – a crime in Malaysia – and corruption. Tens of thousands of people took to the streets to defend the charismatic leader and his call for “reformasi,” or reform.

But he was imprisoned the following year.

Anwar was acquitted of sodomy charges in 2004, but was jailed again in 2015 on similar charges. From prison in 2018, he coordinated an opposition alliance and even joined forces with his former mentor-turned-foe Mahathir to topple then-prime minister Najib Razak amid the multibillion-dollar corruption scandal at sovereign wealth fund 1MDB.

At the time, Anwar was named as the official prime minister-to-be, but was again denied the post when renewed clashes with Mahathir brought down their government. Amid the instability, Najib’s United Malays National Organization (UMNO), which was roundly rejected by voters in a 2018 vote, returned to government, although Najib himself was jailed after the first of five trials linked to 1MDB.

For Anwar’s supporters, his rise to the top after decades of turmoil is a testament to the power of perseverance.

Anwar “taught us to never give up on our dreams,” wrote Twitter user @aidarazman. “PM at age 75? We still have a lot to experience.”

“It’s hard not to get emotional watching this because we know the challenges he and his family have faced,” wrote @edwardkuruvilla, posting a picture of Anwar’s swearing-in ceremony. “May your tenure be great,” he added.

Many supporters of the new leader also poked fun at Mahathir, now 97 and accused of thwarting Anwar’s ambitions. The former prime minister failed to defend his seat in Saturday’s election, falling short of the 12.5 percent of the vote needed to get back the thousands of Malaysian ringgit he paid as an election deposit.

“God let Mahathir live long enough to see Anwar Ibrahim become Prime Minister of Malaysia,” wrote Twitter user @_nsyakinah.

“Don’t forget, Dr Mahathir not only lived to see his contribution wiped out in the election and his only political agenda of the last 30 years, to block Anwar Ibrahim from becoming Prime Minister, finally happened… but as a former Prime Minister, he will be invited, to also attend Anwar’s swearing-in,” wrote Twitter user @amirulruslan.

“What a year,” wrote @mhmgrgie. “Najib goes to jail. Mahathir loses his deposit and Anwar is now PM. Historic would be an understatement…”

Anwar’s supporters also took a moment to appreciate his wife, Wan Azizah Wan Ismail, who they say has been instrumental in his rise.

Twitter user @JustinTWJ described the 69-year-old as the “mother of Reformasi”, noting her role in leading Anwar’s Reformasi movement after his imprisonment and her role in mobilizing the alliance that ousted Najib. “I can’t imagine how strong she is for all that.

Twitter user @tsimitha wrote: “This incredible woman who was at the heart of the Reformasi movement made this day happen! Women are born leaders!’

Anwar said on Twitter that he would carry out the tasks entrusted to him with “greatest humility”.

“Without your support and efforts, we would not be able to achieve this today,” he added.

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