Malaysian Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim won a vote of confidence during his first parliamentary session on Monday, bolstering his mandate a month after inconclusive election results forced him to ally with the corrupt party of his former political rivals.
Confirmation of support was made by voice vote at the end of the day, when those who supported Anwar’s leadership silenced those who opposed, said Johari Abdul, speaker of the lower house of parliament.
Anwar told Agence France Presse (AFP) that he was supported by 148 members of the 222-seat legislature, giving him the two-thirds majority needed to push through reforms after the divisive general election on 19 November.
House Speaker Johari, a close ally of Anwar, received 147 votes when he was elected to office earlier Monday, with one MP from the ruling coalition absent, said Shamsul Iskandar Mohamad Akin, an aide to the prime minister. Earlier, he said that the speaker received 148 votes.
Analysts say a strong majority should bring political stability to the Southeast Asian nation, which has seen four leadership changes in the same number of years.
Anwar’s Pakatan Harapan (Alliance of Hope) coalition won 82 seats, outperforming rivals but missing the simple majority needed to form a government.
A multi-day political stalemate ensued as a rival group led by former prime minister Muhyiddin Yassin said it had also received majority support, forcing the King of Malaysia to intervene.
Anwar, a longtime leader of the opposition, was sworn in as the country’s 10th prime minister on November 24 to head a government of national unity.
However, this meant that the reformist politician who was campaigning on an anti-corruption platform had to forge an alliance with the Barisan Nasional, the corrupt party of former leader Najib Razak.
Najib is currently in jail for money laundering and abuse of power for crimes related to a major financial scandal at the 1MDB government fund.
Before the vote of confidence, questions remained about Anwar’s legitimacy in the role, given the King’s interference with his appointment.
“From now on, the Anwar government will not be stable for the next five years,” said Malaysian political scientist Oh Ei Sun (AFP).
Anwar, however, is likely to walk the political tightrope as he “continues to appease his coalition partners” while dealing with rising food prices and a slowing economy, Oh added.
Digital Communications Minister Fahmi Fadzil told AFP: “Now Anwar will focus on supporting the economy and bringing people together.”
A former hot-tempered student leader, Anwar was a rising political star in the 1990s, becoming finance minister and deputy prime minister under Malaysian political patriarch Mahathir Mohamad.
But the two fell out heavily over how to handle the 1997-1998 Asian financial crisis.
Anwar was fired and jailed for corruption and sodomy, charges he said were politically motivated. Street protests erupted and escalated into a movement for democratic reform.
In 2015, he was jailed again for sodomy. He denied the accusations and received a full pardon from the king three years after serving his sentence.
Mahathir and Anwar reunited in the 2018 general election to overthrow Najib, with the senior politician becoming prime minister for the second time, with an agreement to hand over the prime ministership to Anwar at a later date.
He never fulfilled this pact, and their union broke up after 22 months.
In last month’s elections, their fortunes changed as Mahathir, 97, failed to win his seat and Anwar became prime minister.