Pakatan chairman's path to becoming nation’s 10th PM 

Ravin Palanisamy Alfian Z.M. Tahir Afif Abd Halim

Pakatan Harapan chairman Anwar Ibrahim has become Malaysia's 10th prime minister. – The Malaysian Insight pic by Kamal Ariffin, November 24, 2022. 

AFTER almost 25 years, Anwar Ibrahim finally realised his quest to to become Malaysia’s prime minister. 

Following days of political impasse, the PKR president — long labelled as ‘PM Tepi’ (PM in waiting) — will now be officially sworn-in as the 10th prime minister, after long-time nemesis Barisan Nasional (BN) agreed to the formation of a unity government. 

The Anwar-led Pakatan Harapan (PH) coalition won 82 parliamentary seats in the general election (GE15), followed by Perikatan Nasional (PN) with 73, BN (30) and Gabungan Parti Sarawak (23). 

Becoming prime minister would definitely be the crowning moment of Anwar’s decades-long political career, where things were not always rosy. 

Anwar Ibrahim waving to the media and supporters outside his home in Sungai Long, before heading to the palace for the swearing-in. – The Malaysian Insight pic by Nazir Sufari, November 24, 2022. 

Rise of Anwar 

The Penang-born Anwar rose to fame when as a student, he led the Muslim Youth Movement of Malaysia (also known as ABIM), serving as its president for eight years. 

He stunned many by accepting Dr Mahathir’s Mohamad’s invitation to join Umno, then the country’s most dominating political party.

Anwar held several ministerial positions before becoming Dr Mahathir’s deputy, just 11 years after joining the party.   

He was at that point widely regarded as Dr Mahathir’s heir but the two had a falling out over the country’s response to the 1997 Asian financial crisis.

Anwar was sacked in 1998 and later jailed on charges of corruption, to which a charge of sodomy — a criminal offense under Malaysian law — was added. He vehemently denied being guilty. 

The charismatic politician received a six-year prison sentence for corruption and received another nine for sodomy. 


His jail sentence and removal from Dr Mahathir’s cabinet sparked nationwide protests known as the “Reformasi” movement. From 1999 to 2002, massive street rallies were organised almost on a weekly basis by Anwar’s supporters with many ending up in Kamunting prison under the now defunct Internal Security Act. 

After Dr Mahathir’s abrupt resignation as prime minister in 2003, Anwar was released from prison in 2004 under Abdullah Ahmad Badawi’s government. 

Anwar made a comeback in politics as the opposition leader from 2008 to 2015. His Pakatan Rakyat coalition denied BN-Umno a two-thirds majority in parliament for the first time in the country’s history at the 2008 general election. 

Anwar Ibrahim's jail sentence and removal from Dr Mahathir's cabinet sparked nationwide protests known as the “Reformasi” movement. – AFP pic, November 24, 2022.

Second sodomy charge 

Anwar’s alleged sexual misconduct did not end after his first sodomy accusation. In 2008, four years after being released, an aide, Saiful Azlan Bukhari lodged a police report claiming that he was sodomised by Anwar. 

Fast forward to 2012, almost two years after the second sodomy trial started, Judge Zabidin Mohamad Diah found Anwar not guilty, after finding the DNA evidence submitted by the prosecution unreliable. However, the prosecution filed an appeal against Anwar’s acquittal. 

The Court of Appeal overturned the acquittal and sentenced him to five years’ imprisonment. 

He lost his appeal against the Appellate Court in 2015, and the Federal Court judges unanimously re-affirmed the conviction and five-year sentence.

Royal pardon 

Anwar received a royal pardon following PH’s victory in the 2018 general elections, ensuring his release from the Sungai Buloh prison. 

The PKR president — who later became the MP for Port Dickson — was said to be next in line to replace Dr Mahathir as prime minister. However, that was not agreed on by some in Bersatu — the party that Dr Mahathir founded — and some in PKR, encountering an objection from former deputy president Azmin Ali. 

The power tussle initiated what is now known as the Sheraton Move where a group of MPs from PH met with Umno and PAS lawmakers to negotiate the formation of a new government. 

In the end, Dr Mahathir relinquished his post as PM. Muhyiddin and some PKR lawmakers decided to leave PH, causing the collapse of the government. 

Anwar Ibrahim campaigning during the general election in Manjoi, Perak. – The Malaysian Insight pic by Seth Akmal, November 24, 2022. 

2022 General Election 

Anwar and PH entered the general election with the hope of toppling the Umno-led BN/PN government. 

PH drew huge crowds on their campaign trails, becoming the overall winner in GE15 but lacking the simple majority needed to form the government. 

Meetings and discussions soon started with PN taking the lead in claiming that it had the numbers to form the government. Anwar, however, remained calm and worked behind the scenes to ensure PH too amassed enough support, with BN the most likely partner. 

After meeting the Agong yesterday, Anwar appeared more confident that he would triumph.

Today — 24 years after being unceremoniously sacked from Umno and the then BN government — Anwar has finally scored his biggest victory. – November 24, 2022. 

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