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 top job in the Southeast Asian country on Thursday after his king intervened in the political impasse following the unsuccessful parliamentary elections last weekend and appointed him the country’s 10th prime minister.
It was a remarkable comeback for Anwar, who spent nearly three decades in opposition, including 10 years in prison for allegations of sodomy and corruption, which he claims were politically motivated.
Many Malaysians on Twitter responded with joyful disbelief.
“I was at the airport when the announcement of our 10:00 was made,” wrote Twitter user @itsraenu_. “I’ve heard people scream and I’ve seen people smile from ear to ear.”
I was at the airport when the announcement of our 10th afternoon 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_) November 24, 2022
“Anwar’s resurgence is something that many generations to come should draw inspiration from,” tweeted Twitter user @CHKen_2. “I’ve waited 24 years for this, gone through all sorts of political insidiousness, and even endured a prison sentence — but never relinquished its principles. Keep believing.”
Anwar’s resurgence is something that many generations to come should draw inspiration from. He waited 24 years for this, went through all sorts of political treachery and even had to endure a prison sentence — but he never gave up on his principles. Keep believing.
— Ken 🏴 (@CHKen_2) November 24, 2022
Anwar, a former Deputy Prime Minister, was due to take up the top job in 1998 before being sacked from the government after dealing with then-Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad about his handling of the Asian financial crisis. Anwar was then accused of sodomy — a crime in Malaysia — and corruption. Tens of thousands took to the streets to defend the charismatic leader and his demands for “reformasi” or reforms.
But he was detained the following year.
Anwar managed to obtain acquittal of the sodomy charges in 2004, but was arrested again in 2015 on similar allegations. Out of prison in 2018, he coordinated an opposition alliance and even teamed up with his former mentor, who became an enemy, Mahathir, to overthrow then-Prime Minister Najib Razak amid the billion-dollar corruption scandal involving the state-owned fund 1MDB.
At that time, Anwar was appointed official prime minister, but he was denied the post again when renewed clashes with Mahathir overthrew their government. Amidst the instability, Najibs United Malays National Organization (UMNO), which voters had firmly rejected in the 2018 vote, returned to government, although Najib himself was jailed after the first of five lawsuits involving 1MDB.
For Anwar’s supporters, his rise to the top after decades of turmoil is a testament to the power of persistence.
Anwar “taught us never to give up on dreams,” wrote Twitter user @aidarazman. “PM at the age of 75? We have so much more to experience.”
Anwar taught us never to give up on dreams. PM at the age of 75? We still have so much more to experience 😭😭😭
— Aida (@aidarazman) November 24, 2022
“It’s hard not to get emotional when you know the challenges he and his family faced,” @edwardkuruvilla wrote and posted a picture of Anwar’s oath ceremony. “May your tenure be great,” he added.
Anwar Ibrahim (finally) sworn in as Malaysia’s 10th Prime Minister! It’s hard not to get emotional when you know the challenges he and his family faced. May your tenure be great and may you bring Malaysia back to glory. Our prime minister. #Reformasi pic.twitter.com/lr69dcbah5
— Edward Kuruvilla (@edwardkuruvilla) November 24, 2022
Many supporters of the new leader also made fun of Mahathir, who is now 97 years old and is accused of thwarting Anwar’s ambitions. The former prime minister was unable to defend his seat in Saturday’s elections and did not even win the 12.5 percent of the votes needed to recover the thousands of Malaysian ringgit he had paid as ballot bail.
“God let Mahathir live long enough for Anwar Ibrahim to become Prime Minister of Malaysia,” wrote Twitter user @_nsyakinah.
God let Mahathir live long enough for Anwar Ibrahim to become Prime Minister of Malaysia.
— (@_nsyakinah) November 24, 2022
“Don’t forget that Dr. Mahathir not only saw his deposit wiped out in an election, and his sole political purpose of the last 30 years, to prevent Anwar Ibrahim from becoming prime minister, has finally happened… but as a former prime minister, he is also invited to attend Anwar’s swearing-in ceremony,” wrote Twitter user @amirulruslan.
Don’t forget that Dr. Mahathir has not only seen his deposits nullified in an election and his sole political purpose of the last 30 years, to prevent Anwar Ibrahim from becoming prime minister, has finally come to pass… but, as a former prime minister, he is also invited to attend Anwar’s swearing-in.
— Amirul Ruslan (@amirulruslan) November 24, 2022
“What a year,” @mhmgrgie wrote. “Najib goes to jail. Mahathir loses his deposit and now Anwar is prime minister. Historically, an understatement would be…”
What a year. Najib goes to jail, Mahathir loses his bail and now Anwar is prime minister. Historically would be an understatement.
— MHM (@mhmgrgie) November 24, 2022
Anwar’s supporters also took a moment to pay tribute to his wife Wan Azizah Wan Ismail, who they say was instrumental in his rise.
Twitter user @JustinTWJ described the 69-year-old as the “mother of Reformasi,” referring to her role in leading Anwar’s Reformasi movement following his detention and her role in mobilizing the Alliance that brought down Najib. “I can’t imagine the power it has to do all that.”
— Has given her undeniable support and love for Anwar becoming Prime Minister of Malaysia.
— Became opposition leader for a short time
— Malaysia’s first deputy prime minister
— saw her husband go to jail twice.
I can’t imagine the power she has to do all that.
— not typical. (@JustinTWJ) November 24, 2022
Twitter user @tsimitha wrote: “This incredible woman, who was at the heart of the Reformasi movement, made this day possible! Women are born leaders!
Do you know what hit me the most at the swearing-in ceremony? I’m watching @drwanazizah sit there and the AI overlooks, get sworn in. This incredible woman, who was at the heart of the #Reformasi movement, made this day possible! Women are born leaders! We need more women in politics! #PM10 #Malaysia pic.twitter.com/qmfv0exxjx
— Simitha Singam — (@tsimitha) November 24, 2022
For his part, Anwar said on Twitter that he would perform the duties entrusted to him with “extreme humility.”
“We couldn’t achieve this today without your support and dedication,” he added.
Thanks to everyone who continues to send Tahniah, and I really appreciate it. Without your support and dedication, we can’t afford to achieve this today. #DemiPertiwi pic.twitter.com/3q40eHAOVH
— Anwar Ibrahim (@anwaribrahim) November 24, 2022