Anwar’s first year as PM: stability in Malaysian politics, faith in democracy restored

Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim is no stranger to Malaysian politics, and his leadership of the federal government over the past year has proven instrumental in shaping a new political landscape and restoring the people’s confidence in democratic principles.

The Tambun MP assumed the reins of power when the country’s political scenario was in uncertainty following the results of the 15th general election (GE15), which saw for the first time no party or political coalition secure a majority of seats to form the government.

Anwar’s astuteness in leading Pakatan Harapan (PH) and successfully convincing the Barisan Nasional (BN), Gabungan Parti Sarawak (GPS), and Gabungan Rakyat Sabah coalitions to join it in forming the unity government brought stability, cooled political temperatures, and streamlined the federal administration.

Political analyst Mujibu Abu Muis said that over the past year, the 10th prime minister has successfully led the federal government without undue political pressure or risky issues that could disrupt the administration of the country.

“Anwar’s success in restoring political stability is not only crucial in enhancing the government’s ability to bring more good to the country but also in restoring the people’s confidence in a democratic system that was previously considered ailing and weary,” the Political Science senior lecturer at Universiti Teknologi Mara (UiTM) and Research Fellow at Ilham Centre said.

Inheriting the nation’s leadership amidst political upheaval following GE14, which saw the country led by three different prime ministers in less than four years, the PH chairman initially faced the daunting task of ensuring stability within the unity government.

Many political observers, analysts, and even political leaders themselves anticipated that Anwar, along with his cabinet, would only last for three or four months before succumbing to the “green wave” of opposition coalition Perikatan Nasional (PN).

“Previous governments (post-GE14) were always in doubt about their legitimacy. Now, under the leadership of Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim, there is strong support in Parliament, so the focus can be fully on the country’s development,” said Mujibu.

Anwar was sworn in as the 10th prime minister on November 24, 2022, five days after GE15, before announcing the appointment of two deputy prime ministers and 28 members of the cabinet in the unity government on December 2.

Senior lecturer at the Faculty of Administrative Science and Policy Studies at UiTM Kedah, Jazimin Zakaria, describes Anwar, who is also finance minister, as successful in forming a cabinet with extensive experience in administrative matters.

“The many ‘heavyweight’ ministers in the unity government are a bonus and the result is various new policies, such as the Madani Economy, that touch on the people’s interests and welfare and have been introduced within the first year,” he said.

Jazimin also described the approach of Anwar’s administration of emphasising good governance principles and openness in accepting different views and criticism as being successful in winning over Malaysians who feel that their voices are better heard compared to previous administrations.

Nusantara Academy of Strategic Research geostrategist and senior fellow Prof Azmi Hassan said the 76-year-old prime minister has managed to restore the country’s good reputation globally through his speeches at international conferences that have garnered the attention of the world, especially on how he has stood up for the rights of Palestinians and their plight in the wake of the conflict in Gaza.

“A prime minister without text, that’s Anwar,” he said, pointing out that Malaysia’s leader was able to express himself straight from his heart, a feat that had endeared him to audiences throughout the world.

With the fresh, dynamic, and new optics displayed by Anwar, Azmi said it is not impossible for the stable and maturing unity government to obtain the support of more opposition MPs.

So far, four PN MPs from Bersatu, namely Datuk Iskandar Dzulkarnain Abdul Khalid (Kuala Kangsar), Datuk Suhaili Abdul Rahman (Labuan), Mohd Azizi Abu Naim (Gua Musang), and Zahari Kechik (Jeli), have stated their support for Anwar’s leadership.

“I believe after this, more MPs will pledge their support to Anwar. This is not a question of wanting allocations; it should be deciphered as surplus and deficit, which is an increase in confidence in the authority of the unity government and a loss of confidence in the PN leadership to be a competent opposition,” he said.

In this regard, Anwar’s decision to appoint two deputy prime ministers, which many consider a political manoeuvre, is viewed from a different perspective by National Professors Council Senior Fellow Datuk Jeniri Amir.

Jeniri opined that, apart from BN chairman Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, the appointment of GPS chief whip Datuk Seri Fadillah Yusof marks a historic moment in strengthening ties between Sabah, Sarawak, and the Peninsula in the formation of Malaysia.

According to Jeniri, Anwar, within a short period, has succeeded in bringing positive developments with regard to the Malaysia Agreement 1963 (MA63), something that previous leaders failed to achieve.

“He has shown a clear commitment to issues involving MA63. Some issues have been resolved, some are still under discussion and this is good.

“In fact, in Budget 2024, there is a significant allocation for Sabah and Sarawak, in addition to interim allocations. This is to reduce the development gap, not only between urban and rural areas in these two states but also with the Peninsula.

“Anwar is highly determined to close that gap, including the political, infrastructure, education, social, economic, and cultural gaps, towards a more solid integration to realise the Madani values,” he said.

According to Jeniri, Madani is not just an empty slogan but is genuinely translated into Anwar’s administration, which has been proven in a short period to eliminate the negative perception of the people of Sabah and Sarawak, who have often felt marginalised and neglected by the federal government.

“I believe that (Datuk Seri) Fadillah Yusof was appointed to provide focus and facilitate the resolution of matters involving Sabah and Sarawak. With his experience both inside and outside of the government, Anwar surely knows the importance of having a local to handle it,” he added.