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The election battle won, the real test for the new Prime Minister of Malaysia begins – KGET 17

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AP) – Reformist leader Anwar Ibrahim has won a hard-fought battle to become Malaysia’s new prime minister. But working with former enemies to form a unity government, as the polarized nation watches, will immediately test his political will.

There is no honeymoon period for Anwar, 75, who went straight to work less than 24 hours after being sworn in as the nation’s 10th leader.

Anwar watches in the government’s administrative capital Putrajaya on Friday morning on national television. His first test will be to build a cabinet and distribute portfolios to appease the various members of his unity government.

Anwar vowed on Monday to make his cabinet leaner than the previous, outsized administration, and said he would give up his prime minister’s salary amid the country’s economic slowdown. He said that the new members of the Government will also be asked to reduce their salaries.

“My main priority now is the cost of living,” he told a news conference.

Anwar has vowed to work quickly to find ways to help Malaysians struggling with rising food costs, a currency at its lowest point in more than two decades and stagnant wages ahead of an expected economic slowdown next year.

Anwar’s Pakatan Harapan, or Alliance of Hope, won 82 of the 222 seats in the November 19 general election. To form a majority, he won the support of two key rival blocs: the long-ruling National Front, which has 30 seats, and the Sarawak Alliance of Parties, which has 23. Several smaller blocs have said they will also join.

Former Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin’s Malayan-focused National Alliance unexpectedly won 73 seats. Muhyiddin’s hardline ally, the Sharia-promoting Pan-Malaysian Islamic Party, took 49 seats to become the country’s largest single party, a sign of the rise of conservative Islam.

Anwar’s victory, backed by political rivals, marked another “watershed moment that heralded a new era of Malaysian democracy,” said Ahmad Fauzi Abdul Hamid, a political analyst at the University of Science Malaysia.

It came on the back of his alliance’s stunning election victory in 2018, which ended the National Front’s 60-year hold on power and ushered in the country’s first regime change since independence from Britain in 1957. But the new government collapsed after taking power that led to turmoil and saw a total of three prime ministers in four years. Anwar was in prison at the time on sodomy charges that he said were politically motivated.

Anwar has cultivated a conciliatory tone since his appointment, welcoming all parties into his government as long as they adhere to the basic principles of good governance, no corruption and a “Malaysia for all Malaysians”.

Analysts said the makeup of his cabinet will provide a clearer picture of his policies going forward as he makes good on his campaign promises to clean up the government and heal deepening racial and religious divisions. His anti-corruption platform will be tested amid concerns that concessions will be made for some National Front leaders fighting corruption charges in exchange for their support.

An ethnic Muslim, Anwar must also earn the trust of conservative Malays, who saw him as too liberal and sided with Muhyiddin’s right-wing bloc in disputed elections. Police have stepped up security and Anwar’s supporters have been told to refrain from celebrations that could provoke Islamic supporters.

In such a racially charged environment, Anwar’s goals – including replacing a decades-old affirmative action plan that privileges Malays in jobs, education and housing – could be a minefield.

Anwar assured the Malays that their constitutional rights and Islam’s position as the national religion would be protected. But he emphasized that other races must not be marginalized so that the country can be united.

“Racial division has existed in Malaysia since independence,” said political analyst Ahmad Fauzi.

“Anwar will come up with his own formula to contain the problem, but to think he can solve it is to expect the impossible from him,” he added.

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