Malaysian's Anwar Ibrahim to start talks on forming new government

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Malaysian's Anwar Ibrahim to start talks on forming new government

Malaysia's Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim and his wife Wan Azizah wave as they arrive at a gathering in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia on November 24, 2022. VINCENT THIAN AP KUALA LUMPUR - Malaysia's Anwar Ibrahim is expected to start discussions on forming his cabinet on Friday, as he begins his job as prime minister at a challenging time, as the economy slows and the country is split after a close election.

Anwar, 75, was sworn in as premier on Thursday, completing 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 after an inconclusive election, said that the people of Malaysia had been waiting for change for a long time.

READ MORE: Malaysia's Anwar becomes a new PM, ending a decades-long wait.

He said late on Thursday that we will never compromise on good governance, the anti-corruption drive, judicial independence and the welfare of ordinary Malaysians.

Anwar's appointment ends five days of a post-election crisis but could lead to 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.

Anwar had previously been denied the premiership despite getting within striking distance over the years. He spent nearly a decade in jail for sodomy and corruption in what he says were politically motivated charges.

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

Anwar's tasks have just begun, to unite a very polarized and divided nation based on race and religion, said former lawmaker and coalition ally Lim Kit Siang.

On Thursday, the markets surged on the end of political deadlock, but investors will be watching how Anwar manages the aftermath of the election.

The ringgit extended gains, up nearly 1 percent, while the Malaysian stocks fell on Friday morning after 4 percent gains the previous day.

Anwar's supporters expressed hope that his government would avert a return to historic tensions between the ethnic Malay, Muslim majority and ethnic Chinese and Indian minorities.

Anwar's coalition, known as Pakatan Harapan, won the most seats in Saturday's 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 bloc won only 30 seats - the worst electoral performance for a coalition that had dominated politics since independence in 1957.

Anwar said that Barisan and an alliance of parties from Malaysian Borneo had pledged to support him, giving him a convincing majority. He stated that there would be two deputy prime ministers -- one from each of the blocs.

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

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

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

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