Malaysia’s king has appointed reformist opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim as the country’s new prime minister.
Sultan Abdullah Sultan Ahmad Shah said Mr Anwar will be sworn in as the country’s 10th leader at the palace on Thursday afternoon (local time).
Mr Anwar’s appointment marks the culmination of a three-decade political journey from protégé of veteran leader Mahathir Mohamad to prisoner convicted of sodomy to opposition leader and eventually prime minister.
Mr Anwar, 75, has been denied the premiership time and time again despite coming within striking distance over the years.
He was Deputy Prime Minister in the 1990s and official Prime Minister pending in 2018.
In between, he spent nearly a decade in prison for sodomy and corruption in what he says were politically motivated charges aimed at ending his career.
Mr Anwar’s Alliance of Hope led Saturday’s election with 82 seats, short of the 112 needed for a majority.
An unexpected wave of ethnic Malaysian support saw former Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin’s right-leaning National Alliance win 72 seats, with its ally the Pan-Malaysian Islamic Party becoming the largest party with 49 seats.
The stalemate was resolved after the long-ruling bloc led by the United Malays National Organization (UMNO) agreed to support a unity government led by Mr Anwar.
Such collaboration was once unthinkable in Malaysian politics, long dominated by rivalry between the two sides.
Other influential groups on the island of Borneo have said they will follow the king’s decision.
“His Royal Highness reminds all parties that the winners don’t win everything and the losers don’t lose everything,” the palace said in a statement.
The monarch urged Anwar and his new government to be humble, saying all opposing sides should reconcile to ensure a stable government and end the political turmoil in Malaysia, which has been raging since the polls of 2018 has led to three prime ministers.
The palace’s statement said the king was confident Mr Anwar is the candidate likely to be supported by the majority, but did not provide details about the new government.
Anwar faces economic and social challenges
Police have tightened security across the country as social media warned of racial problems if Mr Anwar’s multi-ethnic bloc wins.
Mr Anwar’s rise to the top will allay fears of greater Islamization.
But he faces the big task of bridging the racial divides that have deepened after Saturday’s poll, and reviving an economy struggling with rising inflation and a currency that has fallen to its weakest point.
Malays make up two-thirds of Malaysia’s population of 33 million, including large ethnic Chinese and Indian minorities.
It marked a second victory for Mr Anwar’s reformist bloc.
It won the 2018 election that led to the first regime change since Malaysia’s independence from Britain in 1957.
But the government collapsed after Mr Muhyiddin defected and joined hands with UMNO to form a new government.
Mr Muhyiddin’s government was beset by internal rivalries and he resigned after 17 months.
UMNO leader Ismail Sabri Yaakob was then chosen as prime minister by the king.
Many rural Malays fear they will lose their privileges with greater pluralism under Mr Anwar
Fed up with corruption and infighting in UMNO, many chose Mr Muhyiddin’s bloc in Saturday’s vote.