For Anwar Ibrahim’s supporters, his appointment as Malaysia’s new prime minister has been a long time coming.
The 75-year-old opposition leader secured the Southeast Asian country’s top job on Thursday after its king intervened in the political impasse following last weekend’s inconclusive general election and named him the country’s 10th prime minister.
It was a remarkable comeback for Anwar, who has spent nearly three decades in opposition, including 10 years in prison on sodomy and corruption charges he claims were politically motivated.
Many Malaysians on Twitter responded with gleeful disbelief.
Twitter user @itsraenu_ wrote, “I was at the airport when our 10th PM was announced.” “I heard people screaming and saw people smiling ear to ear.”
Twitter user @CHKen_2 wrote, “Anwar’s resurgence is sure to inspire generations to come.” Waited 24 years for this, suffered all kinds of political back-stabbing and even imprisonment- but never wavered from his principles. Keep on believing.”
A former deputy prime minister, Anwar looked set to take the top post in 1998 when he was dismissed from government after differences with then-prime minister Mahathir Mohamad over the handling of the Asian financial crisis. Anwar was then charged with sodomy – a crime in Malaysia – and corruption. Tens of thousands of people took to the streets in defense of the charismatic leader and his call for “sudhar” or reform.
But the next year he was jailed.
Anwar managed to get acquitted of sodomy charges in 2004, but was jailed again in 2015 on similar charges. From prison in 2018, he coordinated an opposition coalition and even joined his former mentor-rival Mahathir with then-prime minister Najib Razak amid a multi-billion-dollar corruption scandal at state fund 1MDB.
At the time, Anwar was named the official prime minister-in-waiting, but renewed conflict with Mahathir led to his government again being denied the position. Amid instability, Najib’s United Malays National Organization (UMNO), which was overwhelmingly rejected by voters in the 2018 vote, returned to government, although Najib himself was jailed after the first of five trials involving 1MDB. .
For Anwar’s supporters, his rise to the top after decades of turmoil is a testament to the power of perseverance.
Twitter user @aidarazman wrote, Anwar “taught us to never give up on dreams”. “PM at 75? We have so much more to experience.”
@edwardkuruvilla posted a photo of Anwar’s swearing-in ceremony, writing, “It’s hard not to be emotional watching this, knowing the challenges he and his family have faced.” “May you have a wonderful tenure,” he said.
Many of the new leader’s supporters also mocked Mahathir, now 97, who is accused of thwarting Anwar’s ambitions. The former prime minister failed to defend his seat in Saturday’s election, also failing to win the 12.5 percent of the vote needed to get back thousands of Malaysian ringgit paid as election deposits.
Twitter user @_nsyakinah wrote, “God keep Mahathir alive long enough to see Anwar Ibrahim become the prime minister of Malaysia.” https://twitter.com/_nsyakinah/status/1595739143413280774?s=20&t=_CR3i0FbL_ONm7asCleuQQ
“Don’t forget, Dr. Mahathir not only lived to see his savings wiped out in an election and his sole political objective of the past 30 years, to stop Anwar Ibrahim from becoming Prime Minister, finally happened…but a As a former prime minister, he will be invited to attend Anwar’s swearing-in ceremony as well,” wrote Twitter user @amirulruslan.
“What a year,” wrote @mhmgrgie. Najeeb goes to jail. Mahathir’s bail was forfeited and now Anwar is the PM. The historical one would be silent…”
Anwar’s supporters also lauded his wife, Wan Aziza Wan Ismail, for being instrumental in his rise.
Twitter user @JustinTWJ described the 69-year-old as the “Mother of Reformacy”, noting her role in leading the Reformacy movement after Anwar was jailed and her role in mobilizing the coalition that brought down Najib. “I can’t imagine he has the strength to do all this.”
Twitter user @tsimhata wrote: “This incredible woman who was the heart of the reformist movement made this day possible! Women are born leaders!
For his part, Anwar said on Twitter that he would carry out the duties assigned to him with “utmost humility”.
“Without your support and effort, we would not have achieved what we are today,” he added.