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 the king intervened in the political impasse that followed 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 that he claims were politically motivated
Many Malaysians on Twitter responded with gleeful disbelief.
“I was at the airport when the announcement of our 10th PM was made,” Twitter user @itsraenu_ wrote. “I heard people screaming and saw people smiling from ear to ear.”
I was at the airport when the 10 PM announcement was made and I heard people screaming and saw people smiling from ear to ear.
Could be a coincidence but not long after the airport started playing “Standing In The Eyes of The World”
— Raenu (@itsraenu_) 24 November 2022
“Anwar’s resurgence is something to be inspired by for many generations to come,” wrote Twitter user @CHKen_2. “Waited 24 years for this, went through all kinds of political backbiting and even had to endure prison – but never gave up on his principles. Keep believing.”
Anwar’s resurgence is something to be inspired by for many generations to come. Waited 24 years for this, went through all kinds of political backbiting and even had to endure prison – but never gave up on his principles. Keep believing. #PM10malaysia
— Ken 🏴 (@CHKen_2) 24 November 2022
A former deputy prime minister, Anwar looked set to take the top job in 1998 before being sacked from government after falling out with then-prime minister Mahathir Mohamad over his handling of the Asian financial crisis. Anwar was subsequently charged with sodomy – a crime in Malaysia – and corruption. Tens of thousands took to the streets to defend the charismatic leader and his calls for “reformasi” or reform.
But he was imprisoned the following year.
Anwar managed to secure an acquittal on the sodomy charge in 2004, but was jailed again in 2015 on similar charges. From prison in 2018, he coordinated an opposition alliance and even teamed up with his former mentor-turned-foe Mahathir to topple then-prime minister Najib Razak amid the multibillion-dollar corruption scandal at sovereign wealth fund 1MDB.
At the time, Anwar was appointed as the official prime minister-in-waiting, but was again denied the post as renewed clashes with Mahathir brought down their government. Amid the instability, Najib’s United Malays National Organization (UMNO), which voters had rejected outright in the 2018 vote, returned to government, although Najib himself was jailed after the first of five trials related to 1MDB.
For Anwar’s supporters, his rise to the top after decades of turmoil is a testament to the power of perseverance.
Anwar “taught us to never give up on dreams,” Twitter user @aidarazman wrote. “PM as a 75-year-old? We have so much more to experience.”
anwar taught us to never give up on dreams. PM as a 75-year-old? we have so much more to experience 😭😭😭
— aida (@aidarazman) 24 November 2022
“Hard not to get emotional watching this, knowing the challenges he and his family have faced,” wrote @edwardkuruvilla, posting a photo of Anwar’s swearing-in ceremony. “May your term be a great one,” he added.
Anwar Ibrahim (finally) sworn in as Malaysia’s 10th Prime Minister! Hard not to get emotional watching this, knowing the challenges he and his family have faced. May your tenure be great and may you return Malaysia to glory. Our PM. #Reformation pic.twitter.com/Lr69dcbah5
— Edward Kuruvilla (@edwardkuruvilla) 24 November 2022
Many of the new leader’s supporters also wondered about Mahathir, who is now 97 and is being blamed for thwarting Anwar’s ambitions. The former prime minister failed to defend his seat in Saturday’s election, failing to win even the 12.5 percent of the vote required to recover the thousands of Malaysian ringgit he paid as an election deposit.
“God made Mahathir live long enough to see Anwar Ibrahim become Prime Minister of Malaysia,” wrote Twitter user @_nsyakinah.
God made Mahathir live long enough to see Anwar Ibrahim become Prime Minister of Malaysia.
— شكينة (@_nsyakinah) 24 November 2022
“Don’t forget that Dr Mahathir not only lived to see his deposit wiped out in an election and his only political purpose for the past 30 years, blocking Anwar Ibrahim from becoming Prime Minister, finally happen… but as a former Prime Minister, he will be invited to to attend Anwar’s swearing-in too,” Twitter user @amirulruslan wrote.
Don’t forget that Dr Mahathir not only lived to see his deposit wiped out in an election and his only political purpose for the past 30 years, blocking Anwar Ibrahim from being Prime Minister, finally happen… but as a former Prime Minister, he will be invited to attend Anwar’s swearing in too.
— Amirul Ruslan (@amirulruslan) 24 November 2022
“What a year,” wrote @mhmgrgie. “Najib is going to jail. Mahathir loses his deposit and now Anwar is prime minister. Historic would be an understatement…”
What a year. Najib goes to jail, Mahathir loses his deposit and now Anwar is prime minister. Historic would be an understatement.
— MHM (@mhmgrgie) 24 November 2022
Anwar’s supporters also took a moment to appreciate his wife, Wan Azizah Wan Ismail, who they say has been instrumental in his rise.
Twitter user @JustinTWJ described the 69-year-old as the “Mother of Reformasi”, noting her role in leading Anwar’s Reformasi movement after his imprisonment and her role in mobilizing the alliance that brought Najib. “I can’t imagine the strength she has to do it all.”
– Gave her unquestionable support and love for Anwar as Prime Minister of Malaysia.
– Became opposition leader for a short period
– The first Deputy Prime Minister of Malaysia
– Saw her husband go to prison twice.
I can’t imagine the strength she has to handle it all.
– not typical. (@JustinTWJ) 24 November 2022
Twitter user @tsimita wrote: “This incredible woman who was the heart of the Reformasi movement made this day happen! Women are born leaders!”
You know what struck me the most during the swearing-in ceremony? Look at @drwanazizah sitting there, overlooking the AI being sworn in. This incredible woman who was the heart of #Reformation movement made this day happen! Women are born leaders! We need more women in politics! #PM10 #Malaysia pic.twitter.com/QmFv0eXXjx
— Simitha Singam – सिमिद्धा सिंगम (@tsimitha) 24 November 2022
For his part, Anwar said on Twitter that he would undertake the duties entrusted to him with the “utmost humility”.
“Without your support and efforts, we would not be able to achieve this today,” he added.
— Anwar Ibrahim (@anwaribrahim) 24 November 2022