Malaysian opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim has been appointed prime minister and will be sworn in by the king at 5 pm local time, the country’s palace said on Thursday.
A general election on Saturday ended in an unprecedented hung parliament with neither of the two main alliances, one led by Anwar and the other ex-premier Muhyiddin Yassin, immediately able to secure enough seats in parliament to form a government.
Anwar’s appointment caps a three-decade long journey from heir apparent to a prisoner convicted of sodomy, to longtime opposition leader.
The 75-year-old has time and again been denied the premiership despite getting within striking distance a number of times over the years: he was deputy prime minister in the 1990s and the official prime minister-in-waiting in 2018.
In between, he spent nearly a decade in jail for sodomy and corruption in what he says were politically motivated charges aimed at ending his career.
With 82 parliamentary seats Anwar’s Pakatan Harapan, or Alliance of Hope, came out on top in Saturday’s election, but was short of the 112 seats needed for a majority. Former prime minister Muhyiddin’s Malay-centric Perikatan Nasional, or National Alliance, won 73 seats.
The alliance led by the United Malays National Organization, which has 30 seats, held the balance of power.
Umno’s secretary-general Ahmad Maslan said Thursday the party’s highest-decision making body had decided to support a unity government that is not led by Muhyiddin’s camp and the party would accept any unity government or any other form of government decided by the king.
With the support of all 30 lawmakers in the Umno alliance, Anwar was able to secure a majority.
King Sultan Abdullah Sultan Ahmad Shah on Thursday met with royal families from nine states to consult them on the deadlock. Malaysia’s hereditary state rulers, who take turns as the country’s king every five years under a unique rotation system, are highly regarded by the country’s Malay majority as the guardians of Islam and Malay tradition.
Anwar’s reformist alliance won 2018 elections that led to the first regime change since Malaysia’s independence from Britain in 1957. But the government collapsed after Muhyiddin defected and joined hands with Umno to form a new government. Muhyiddin’s government was beset by internal rivalries and he resigned after 17 months. Umno leader Ismail Sabri Yaakob was then picked by the king as the prime minister.
Reuters and Associated Press contributed to this report