THE perennial runner-up of Malaysian politics, Pakatan Harapan (PH) chairman Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim, is finally at the helm of the country's administration.
Following a meeting with his brother rulers yesterday, the monarch, in exercising his discretion bestowed by the Federal Constitution under Articles 40(2)(a) and 43(2)(a), appointed Anwar as the country's 10th prime minister (PM). If at first you don't succeed, try, try again. How true in Anwar's case.
But the challenge for him began the moment he was sworn in at 5pm yesterday. The PH leader has to be a PM for all, not just for PH voters. This is the reality of politics in Malaysia, especially given that Perikatan Nasional (PN) and other coalitions, especially those in Sabah and Sarawak, had secured not an insubstantial percentage of the popular vote on Nov 19.
On the campaign trail, Anwar famously said that if he became PM, he would choose the best Malays, Chinese and Indians to be in his cabinet.
This promise he must keep. Competence and integrity must be made the qualifying criteria for any cabinet position.
The PH leader's politics is in some ways shaped by Umno politics of the early 1980s, when he was recruited into the party by then prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad. He was seen by many as an angry young man in a hurry to replace the prime minister. Now, at 75 years old and as the 10th prime minister, his angry politics appear to have matured into an accommodating one. What a difference 40 years make.
For the longest time, we have been used to having cabinet members only from the party that the PM is from, or from the coalition which he represented. Anwar's government promises to change that. He may just open a new chapter in Malaysian politics. Anwar is no newcomer to politics.
He has been at it since 1982 and he should know (having been a deputy prime minister and finance minister) that the market is looking for stability. This can only happen if his government is an inclusive one. Intra-party politics must give way to inter-party politics. This will be a big mountain for Anwar to mount.
Equally important is the budget. Unfortunately for the country, Parliament was dissolved without the 2023 Budget being passed. This must be the first order of business for Anwar's government. He must make sure that not only his party's manifesto is somewhere there, but also the promises of other parties are there, too.
This is a historic opportunity for the 10th prime minister to unite the people of the country through the budget. The global community, especially investors, will be keeping an eye on Anwar's premiership. There is also a fear, not an unfounded one, that some of his unity government partners may attempt to undermine the independence of institutions such as the judiciary. This fear the 10th prime minister must allay from Day One.