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Asia Minute: Familiar political figure takes leadership role in politically turbulent Malaysia

Anwar Ibrahim
Malaysia's Prime Minister Office
In this photo provided by Prime Minister Office, Malaysia's Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim speaks at a press conference on his first day at the prime minister's office in Putrajaya, Malaysia, Friday, Nov. 25, 2022.

Anwar Ibrahim has been a high-profile political figure in Malaysia for decades —from a powerful cabinet minister to a prison inmate to an opposition leader. Now he’s Prime Minister.

Thirty years ago, he was Finance Minister —rising to Deputy Prime Minister under long-time ruler Mahathir Mohammed.

But the two had a falling out and Anwar’s political career took a sharp fall.

He wound up in prison for several years on disputed charges of corruption and sodomy. Convictions were later partially overturned.

Amnesty International called him a “prisoner of conscience” and a victim of “political manipulation.”

Anwar became a leader in Malaysia’s opposition and was jailed again in 2015 on a conviction Human Rights Watch called “politically motivated.”

He was eventually pardoned and again became leader of the opposition.

More than a week ago, national elections in Malaysia produced no party with a majority in parliament.

Today, the 75-year-old Anwar is Prime Minister, putting together what he’s calling a “unity cabinet.”

He’s promising political reform and what he calls “a Malaysia for all Malaysians.”

Unity seems a challenging goal as the parliament remains split among various parties.

Anwar says his top priority is not political, but economic, which will “addressing the cost of living.”

Bill Dorman has been the news director at Hawaiʻi Public Radio since 2011.
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