11 July 2024

First, Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim must be congratulated for being the 10th leader of Malaysia since independence. His patience and fighting spirit have paid off, after nearly 22 years as a prime minister in waiting. His leadership comes at the right moment, as the country needs a leader with intellect and wisdom.

From now on, Malaysia will be viewed and talked about in a more positive way, but the road ahead for Anwar is winding and full of pot holes.

His initial test will be to create trust and confidence among the governed Malaysian elite, both politicians and businessmen. Even after his appointment as prime minister by Yang Di Pertuan Agong Sultan Abdullah Sultan Ahmad Shah, former prime minister Muhyiddin Yassin was still insisting that his Perikatan Nasional-led coalition had majority support. Therefore, when Parliament resumes in December, Anwar has to prove that his unity government, headed by Pakatan Harapan and its coalition partners, have the majority.

The second hurdle is equally important. Anwar must win over public hearts and minds, which includes those of conservative Malays, among others. They will be an important group. Therefore, it is of utmost importance that, after the political hurdles are overcome, Anwar works on fixing an economy that has been shattered by the pandemic and the impacts of war in Ukraine.

Fortunately, there were positive signs after Anwar was named the prime minister. The Malaysian stock index was up and the national currency, the Ringgit, saw a hike in value. This shows that confidence in the incoming government is high. That is what Malaysia needs now. Furthermore, for decades,with Anwar’s continued participation in transnational and global issues related to civil and political rights, the fight against corruption, East-West relations and multilateralism, to name but a few, he should be the country’s magnet in generating a more positive image of Malaysia that will increase investment and business confidence. The West will be happy with the new government in Kuala Lumpur and Putrajaya.

Anwar must then demonstrate that his newly formed Cabinet is inclusive and not corrupt. It is more easily said than done,as these have been the biggest problems for previous governments. Past coalition ruling parties have shown that intra-party negotiations and deals are important elements when consolidating power in Malaysian political life. He toldthe press that his government would not compromise on good governance, intensify the anti-corruption drive, assured judicial independence and the welfare of ordinary Malaysians.

In the next few months it will be crucial for Malaysia to ensure that stability will endure and that the racial issues willnot be used by ill-intentioned elements to divide the multi-ethnic country. Indeed, for the first time, Malaysia has a leader who has a universal outlook and is well known among the international community. It is hoped that Anwar’s leadership will further strengthen the Asian profile in the emerging global order. After all, he was the first leader to speak of the Asian Renaissance, albeit two decades ago.

Finally, as for the prospects of Thailand-Malaysian relations, the Anwar government must work with the Thai government as soon as possible to resolve the conflict in southern Thailand. It could be stated here that in the past decade, there has been very little progress in ending the sufferings of the civilians living in the three southernmost provinces, because neither side has demonstrated their utmost goodwill and commitment, partially blamed on their labyrinthine internal politics, to attain an effective peace deal that would bring prosperity on the border. That time is now.

By Kavi Chongkittavorn