After decades of waiting, Anwar Ibrahim (Anwar Ibrahim) was appointed Prime Minister (Prime Minister) of Malaysia.
The political veteran has previously experienced decades of ups and downs in political career, and was twice close to the prime minister.
He was imprisoned for years under the rule of political strongman Mahathir Mohamad, who was also Anwar’s former mentor.
The roller-coaster relationship between the two changed not only Anwar’s fortunes, but Malaysian politics — and Anwar’s place in it.
Anwar, 75, started out as a charismatic and ardent student leader. He founded the Youth Islamic Movement of Malaysia (ABIM).
In 1982, he unexpectedly joined the long-ruling party Umno (UMNO).
But it proved to be a shrewd political move – and he quickly rose through the ranks, taking on various ministerial posts.
In 1993, he became Mahathir’s deputy and was widely considered the prime minister’s successor. But tensions between the two began after the 1997 Asian financial crisis, when the two clashed over the economy and corruption.
jailed for sodomy
In September 1998, Anwar was sacked after he led public protests against Mahathir’s rule. The reform movement “Reformasi” (Reformasi) started, which influenced a generation of Malaysian pro-democracy activists.
Anwar was later arrested and eventually charged with sodomy and corruption. He denied the allegations in a contentious trial that followed.
While Muslim-majority Malaysia criminalizes homosexual conduct, actual convictions are rare and the case against Anwar has been condemned by the international community as politically motivated.
When he was sentenced to six years in prison for corruption, violent protests erupted in the streets. A year later, he was sentenced to nine years in prison for sodomy.
Anwar has maintained that the allegations are part of a smear campaign to neutralize him as a political threat to Mahathir.
In late 2004, a year after Mahathir stepped down as prime minister, Malaysia’s Supreme Court overturned the sodomy conviction and released Anwar.
Rising opposition leader and new allegations
After Anwar’s release, he became the de facto leader of a newly active opposition that ran strongly in the 2008 election.
But in 2008, Anwar was again charged with sodomy, which he said was yet another attempt by the government to sideline him.
In January 2012, the High Court acquitted Anwar for lack of evidence.
The following year he led the opposition to new heights in an election that delivered the ruling coalition’s worst ever performance for the Barisan Nasional.
But Anwar’s ambitions were once again thwarted. As he prepared to run in the 2014 state election, his previous acquittal was overturned and he was sent back to prison.
An unexpected turn of events came in 2016: Anwar’s former rival, Mahathir Mohamad, announced his comeback and was once again in the running for prime minister.
Mahathir, then 92, said he was displeased with the corruption allegations against the then prime minister and another one-time protégé, Najib Razak.
Mahathir struck an unlikely deal with Anwar, who remains behind bars, in an effort to stage a comeback given Anwar’s popularity among opposition supporters.
In a well-publicized moment, the two shook hands in a once unimaginable handshake, marking the beginning of an extraordinary political union.
Mahathir led Pakatan Harapan to victory in a landmark election in 2018, ending Barisan Nasional’s 61-year run in power.
The new Pakatan Harapan coalition combines four parties to form Malaysia’s first true multi-ethnic coalition government, backed by the Malay-Muslim majority and the country’s sizable Chinese and Indian minorities.
Mahathir, who was prime minister again, fulfilled his promise to release Anwar and began to pardon him. He also said he would hand over power to Anwar within two years.
But as the octogenarian keeps changing his goals for handing over power, the coalition is starting to look shaky. It began to unravel amidst bitter infighting over the succession issue and the renewed rise of Malay nationalism.
In February 2020, Mahathir’s surprise resignation led to the collapse of the coalition government, plunging Malaysia into a period of unprecedented political turmoil, and Anwar was again left empty-handed.
After the collapse of the new government, Umno returned to power and Muhyiddin Yassin was appointed as the new prime minister.
But just over a year later, after months of political turmoil, Muhyiddin lost his majority in Congress and resigned at the height of the pandemic.
In October 2022, his successor, UMNO’s Ismail Sabri Yaakob, announced a snap election. At the time, UMNO was confident they could regain power after winning a series of by-elections.
However, Anwar’s Pakatan Harapan coalition picked up the most seats in the general election, but fell short of the simple majority needed to form a government. After days of stalemate, Malaysia’s supreme leader announced the appointment of Anwar as prime minister, ending a 25-year wait.
But the road ahead will remain challenging for Anwar, who must assemble a viable governing coalition and will undoubtedly face difficulties in pushing for a more pluralistic and inclusive Malaysia amid the rise of Islamism .