Anwar Ibrahim

Dato' Seri Anwar bin Ibrahim (Jawi: أنوار بن إبراهيم; Malay pronunciation: [änwär ɪbrähɪm]; born 10 August 1947) is a Malaysian politician who has served as the Leader of the Opposition and Chairman of Pakatan Harapan since 2020 and Member of Parliament for Port Dickson since 2018. He was formerly Deputy Prime Minister of Malaysia from 1993 to 1998.

Anwar Ibrahim

أنوار إبراهيم
12th and 16th Leader of the Opposition
Assumed office
18 May 2020
Prime MinisterMuhyiddin Yassin
Preceded byIsmail Sabri Yaakob
ConstituencyPort Dickson
In office
28 August 2008  16 March 2015
MonarchMizan Zainal Abidin
Abdul Halim
Prime MinisterAbdullah Ahmad Badawi
Najib Razak
Preceded byWan Azizah Wan Ismail
Succeeded byWan Azizah Wan Ismail
ConstituencyPermatang Pauh
Spouse of the Deputy Prime Minister of Malaysia
In role
21 May 2018  24 February 2020
MonarchMuhammad V
Prime MinisterMahathir Mohamad
DeputyWan Azizah Wan Ismail
Preceded byHamidah Khamis
Succeeded byMuhaini Zainal Abidin
7th Deputy Prime Minister of Malaysia
(Acting Prime Minister: 19 May 1997 – 22 July 1997)
In office
1 December 1993  2 September 1998
MonarchAzlan Shah
Prime MinisterMahathir Mohamad
Preceded byGhafar Baba
Succeeded byAbdullah Ahmad Badawi
ConstituencyPermatang Pauh
Minister of Finance
In office
15 March 1991  2 September 1998
MonarchAzlan Shah
Prime MinisterMahathir Mohamad
DeputyAbdul Ghani Othman (1991–1993)
Loke Yuen Yow (1991–1995)
Mustapa Mohamed (1993–1995)
Affifudin Omar (1995–1996)
Wong See Wah (1995–1998)
Mohamed Nazri Abdul Aziz (1996–1998)
Preceded byDaim Zainuddin
Succeeded byMahathir Mohamad
ConstituencyPermatang Pauh
Minister of Education
In office
11 August 1986  15 March 1991
Azlan Shah
Prime MinisterMahathir Mohamad
DeputyWoon See Chin (1986–1990)
Bujang Ulis (1986–1987)
Leo Michael Toyad (1987–1991)
Fong Chan Onn (1990–1991)
Preceded byAbdullah Ahmad Badawi
Succeeded bySulaiman Daud
ConstituencyPermatang Pauh
Minister of Agriculture
In office
17 July 1984  10 August 1986
Prime MinisterMahathir Mohamad
DeputyGoh Cheng Teik
Luhat Wan
Preceded byAbdul Manan Othman
Succeeded bySanusi Junid
ConstituencyPermatang Pauh
Minister of Culture, Youth and Sports
In office
2 June 1983  17 July 1984
MonarchAhmad Shah
Prime MinisterMahathir Mohamad
DeputyRosemary Chow Poh Kheng
Preceded byMokhtar Hashim
Succeeded bySulaiman Daud
ConstituencyPermatang Pauh
Chair of the Caucus on Reform and Governance
Assumed office
4 December 2018
DeputyLim Kit Siang
SpeakerMohamad Ariff Md Yusof
Azhar Azizan Harun
(since 2020)
Preceded byPosition established
ConstituencyPort Dickson
2nd President of the
International Islamic University Malaysia
In office
ChancellorAhmad Shah
Preceded byHussein Onn
Succeeded byNajib Razak
Chair of the Development Committee of the
World Bank Group and the
International Monetary Fund
In office
March 1998  September 1998
Preceded byDriss Jettou
Succeeded byTarrin Nimmanahaeminda
President of the UNESCO General Conference
In office
Preceded byGuillermo Putzeys Alvarez
Succeeded byBethwell Allan Ogot
Member of the Malaysian Parliament
for Permatang Pauh
In office
28 August 2008  16 March 2015[1]
Preceded byWan Azizah Wan Ismail (PKR)
Succeeded byWan Azizah Wan Ismail (PKR)
Majority15,671 (2008)
11,721 (2013)
In office
29 March 1982  14 April 1999
Preceded byZabidi Ali (PAS)
Succeeded byWan Azizah Wan Ismail (keADILan)
Majority14,352 (1982)
10,479 (1986)
16,150 (1990)
23,230 (1995)
Member of the Malaysian Parliament
for Port Dickson
Assumed office
15 October 2018
Preceded byDanyal Balagopal Abdullah (PKR—PH)
Majority23,560 (2018)
2nd President of the People's Justice Party
Assumed office
18 November 2018
DeputyMohamed Azmin Ali
Preceded byWan Azizah Wan Ismail
2nd Chairman of the Pakatan Harapan
Assumed office
24 February 2020
PresidentWan Azizah Wan Ismail
Preceded byMahathir Mohamad
ConstituencyPort Dickson
Personal details
Anwar bin Ibrahim

(1947-08-10) 10 August 1947
Bukit Mertajam, Malaya (now Malaysia)[2]
Political partyUnited Malays National Organisation (UMNO)
People's Justice Party (PKR)
(since 1999)
Other political
Barisan Nasional (BN)
Barisan Alternatif (BA)
Pakatan Rakyat (PR)
Pakatan Harapan (PH)
(since 2015)
Wan Azizah Wan Ismail
(m. 1980)
Children6 (including Nurul Izzah)
Alma materUniversity of Malaya (BA)
National University of Malaysia (MA)
WebsiteOfficial website

Anwar started his political career as a founder of youth organisation Angkatan Belia Islam Malaysia. After joining the United Malays National Organisation, the major party in the long-time ruling Barisan Nasional coalition, Anwar held several high-profile cabinet positions in successive governments in the 1980s and 1990s. He was Deputy Prime Minister of Malaysia from 1993 to 1998 and was Finance Minister from 1991 to 1998, during which he was prominent in Malaysia's response to the 1997 Asian financial crisis. However, he was removed from all posts by Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad in September 1998, after which Anwar led the Reformasi movement against the government. Anwar was jaile April 1999 after a trial for sodomy and corruption that was criticised by human rights groups and several foreign governments. He was released in 2004 after his conviction was overturned. He was the Leader of the Opposition from 2008 to 2015 and was prominent coalescing the opposition parties into the Pakatan Rakyat (PR) coalition, which unsuccessfully campaigned in the 2008 and 2013 general elections. Anwar was sentenced to another five years imprisonment after a second sodomy conviction in 2015.

While still in prison, Anwar re-joined Mahathir Mohamad under new coalition Pakatan Harapan in absentia, which went on to win the 2018 general election. Mahathir outlined a plan for Anwar to take over from himself as Prime Minister after an unspecified interim period.[3] A few days after the election, Anwar received a royal pardon from Yang di-Pertuan Agong Muhammad V[4] and was released from prison.[5][6] He soon made a comeback as a backbencher MP by contesting and winning the 2018 Port Dickson by-election while his wife Wan Azizah Wan Ismail served as the Deputy Prime Minister in the PH administration.

Despite the intention for Anwar to take over as Prime Minister, the collapse of the PH coalition during 2020–21 Malaysian political crisis led to the Perikatan Nasional party under Muhyiddin Yassin being sworn in and Anwar becoming Leader of the Opposition in May 2020.

Outside of politics, Anwar has been involved in a variety of non-profit and academic institutions.

Early life and education

Anwar bin Ibrahim was born in Cherok Tok Kun, Bukit Mertajam, Penang, Malaya.[7] His father, Ibrahim Abdul Rahman, started his career as a hospital porter, later to join politics as the UMNO Member of Parliament for Seberang Perai Central between 1959 and 1969 and also as the Parliamentary Secretary in the Ministry of Health from 1964 to 1969 until his defeat in the 1969 General Election by a candidate from Gerakan. His mother, Che Yan Hussein, was a housewife active in UMNO grassroots politics in Penang.[8]

He undertook his secondary education at the Malay College Kuala Kangsar. He was educated at the University of Malaya, where he got a bachelor's degree in Malay Studies,[9] and worked on his Masters in Literature through the National University of Malaysia while in prison from 1974 to 1975.[10]

Early years (1968–1982)

Anwar Ibrahim speaking in 2005

From 1968 to 1971, as a student, Anwar was the president of the National Union of Malaysian Muslim Students. Around the same time, he was also the president of the University of Malaya Malay Language Society (Malay: Persatuan Bahasa Melayu Universiti Malaya (PBMUM)). In 1971, he was a member of the pro tem committee of Angkatan Belia Islam Malaysia (ABIM) or Muslim Youth Movement of Malaysia, which he co-founded. At the same time, he was elected as the 2nd President of the Malaysian Youth Council or Majlis Belia Malaysia (MBM). In 1974, Anwar was arrested during student protests against rural poverty and hunger. This came as a report surfaced stating that a family died from starvation in a village in Baling, in the state of Kedah, which was later demonstrated to be false. However, the rubber tappers in Baling were experiencing severe hardship as the price of rubber dropped in 1974. He was imprisoned under the Internal Security Act (ISA), which allows for detention without trial, and spent 20 months in the Kamunting Detention Centre. From 1975 till 1982, he served as a representative for Asia Pacific of World Assembly of Muslim Youth (WAMY).[11] Anwar Ibrahim is also the co-founder of the International Institute of Islamic Thought (IIIT) in the USA (founded 1981). Anwar has been one of 4 acting directors, a board member of IIIT[12] and a trustee.[13][14] He was also a chancellor of International Islamic University Kuala Lumpur between 1983 and 1988.[11]

Governmental career (1982–1998)

In 1982, Anwar, who was the founding leader and second president of an Islamic youth organisation called Angkatan Belia Islam Malaysia (ABIM), shocked his liberal supporters by joining the United Malays National Organisation (UMNO), led by Mahathir Mohamad, who had become prime minister in 1981. He rapidly rose to high-ranking positions; his first ministerial office was that of Minister of Culture, Youth and Sports in 1983; after that, he headed the Agriculture Ministry in 1984 before becoming Minister of Education in 1986. By then, speculation was rife about Anwar's ascent to the Deputy Prime Minister's position. It was a commonly-occurring phenomenon in Malaysia for the Education Minister to assume the Deputy PM's position in the near future.

During his tenure as Education Minister, Anwar introduced numerous policies in the national school curriculum. One of his major changes was to rename the national language from Bahasa Malaysia to Bahasa Melayu. Non-Malays criticised this move as it would cause the younger generation to be detached from the national language since they would attribute it to being something that belongs to the Malays and not to Malaysians. As the minister of education, Anwar was elected as the 25th President of UNESCO's General Conference. In 1988, Anwar Ibrahim became the second President of International Islamic University of Malaysia.[15] According to former Law Minister Zaid Ibrahim, Anwar is an Islamist who "helped Islamicise the whole government system" and played a major role in the Islamicisation of the education system when he was Education Minister in the 1980s.[16]

In 1991, Anwar was appointed as Minister of Finance. During his tenure as Finance Minister, his impact was immediate; Malaysia enjoyed unprecedented prosperity and economic growth. Shortly after becoming Finance Minister, Euromoney named him as a top-four finance minister and in 1996 Asiamoney named him Finance Minister of the Year. In the midst of the 1997 Asian financial crisis, Anwar was hailed for guiding Malaysia through the period of instability. He backed free-market principles and highlighted the proximity of business and politics in Malaysia. He advocated greater accountability, refused to offer government bail-outs and instituted widespread spending cuts. As a deputy prime minister and finance minister, in March 1998, Anwar Ibrahim was selected as the Chairman of the Development Committee of World Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF) from March 1998 until September 1998.[17]

In 1993, he became Mahathir's Deputy Prime Minister after winning the Deputy Presidency of UMNO against Ghafar Baba planned to succeed Mahathir as prime minister, and frequently alluded in public to his "son-father" relationship with Mahathir; in May 1997, Mahathir appointed Anwar to be acting Prime Minister while he took a two-month holiday.[18][19]

Towards the end of the 1990s, however, the relationship with Mahathir had begun to deteriorate, triggered by their conflicting views on governance. In Mahathir's absence, Anwar had independently taken radical steps, which directly conflicted with Mahathir's policies, to change the country's governing mechanisms. Issues such as how Malaysia would respond to a financial crisis were often at the forefront of this conflict.

Anwar's frontal attack against what he described as the widespread culture of nepotism and cronyism within UMNO (and the ruling coalition as a whole) angered Mahathir, as did his attempts to dismantle the protectionist policies that Mahathir had set up. "Cronyism" was identified by Anwar as a major cause of corruption and misappropriation of funds in the country.

US Secretary of Defense William Cohen (right) meets with Anwar Ibrahim (left) in his Pentagon office in 1997.

Financial crisis

During the 1997 Asian Financial Crisis, Anwar supported the IMF plan as a finance minister. He also instituted an austerity package that cut government spending by 18%, cut ministerial salaries and deferred major projects. "Mega projects", despite being a cornerstone of Mahathir's development strategy, were greatly curtailed.

Although many Malaysian companies faced bankruptcy, Anwar declared: "There is no question of any bailout. The banks will be allowed to protect themselves and the government will not interfere." Anwar advocated a free-market approach to the crisis, including foreign investment and trade liberalisation. Mahathir blamed currency speculators like George Soros for the crisis and supported currency controls and tighter regulation of foreign investment.[20]

Fall from power and first sodomy conviction

In 1998 Newsweek magazine named Anwar the "Asian of the Year". However, in that year, matters between Anwar and Mahathir came to a head around the quadrennial UMNO General Assembly. The Youth wing of UMNO, headed by Anwar's associate Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, gave notice that it would initiate a debate on "cronyism and nepotism". At the General Assembly, a book by Khalid Jafri, "50 Dalil Kenapa Anwar Tidak Boleh Jadi PM" ("50 Reasons Why Anwar Cannot Become Prime Minister") was circulated containing graphic allegations of homosexuality, as well as accusations of corruption against Anwar. Khalid Jafri was an ex-editor of the government-controlled newspaper Utusan Malaysia and former editor-in-chief of a failed magazine, Harian National. Anwar obtained a court injunction to prevent further distribution of the book and filed a lawsuit against the author for defamation. Police charged the author of the book with malicious publishing of false news.[21] The police were instructed to investigate the veracity of the claims.

On 2 September 1998, Anwar was fired from the Cabinet, and many reports state that he was under investigation for sodomy, an act that is illegal in Malaysia. The following day, he was expelled from UMNO. In what the Sydney Morning Herald termed a "blatantly political fix-up",[22] Anwar was arrested on 20 September 1998 and detained without trial under the country's controversial Internal Security Act (ISA). The Home Minister at the time was also the Prime Minister, Mahathir. Weeks later, Anwar was charged with corruption for allegedly interfering with the police investigation of him. While he was in police custody in 1998, Anwar was beaten by the then Inspector General of Police, Rahim Noor. The public and the media only witnessed his black eye after being brought to Court for the first time. Mahathir remarked that it could have been a self-inflicted injury to garner public sympathy. Rahim was subsequently found guilty of assault and jailed for two months in 2000. He made a public apology to Anwar and paid undisclosed damages.[23] During the trial, a mattress supposedly stained with Anwar's semen was presented to the court as DNA evidence of Anwar's sexual acts. Anwar denied having anything to do with the mattress, although the DNA tests came out positive. Lim Kong Boon, a DNA chemist, testified during the trial that DNA taken from 10 of 13 semen stains on the mattress matched Anwar's DNA.[24][25][26] The defence team implied that DNA samples may have been taken from Anwar, while unconscious, after his beating in police custody, to create false forensics evidence to frame Anwar; however, High Court Judge Augustine Paul accepted that DNA evidence.[25][26]

The High Court eventually handed down its decision in April 1999, sentencing Anwar to six years' imprisonment for corruption and sodomy. Two months later, he was sentenced to nine years' imprisonment for sodomy, which he was ordered to serve after completing his six-year sentence for corruption.[27] His trial and conviction were widely discredited by the international community. Amnesty International stated that the trial proceedings "exposed a pattern of political manipulation of key state institutions including the police, public prosecutor’s office and the judiciary" and declared Anwar a prisoner of conscience, stating that he had been arrested in order to silence him as a political opponent.[28]

The Federal Court overturned his conviction and Anwar was finally released from solitary confinement on 2 September 2004.[29]

Reformasi and formation of KEADILAN

Shortly after Anwar was dismissed as deputy prime minister by the then prime minister Mahathir Mohamad, Anwar and his supporters initiated the Reformasi movement. It consisted of several mass demonstrations and rallies against the long-standing Barisan Nasional coalition government. At the 1998 APEC Summit in Kuala Lumpur, the Vice-President of the United States, Al Gore, gave a speech supporting Anwar and the Reformasi movement in front of the Prime Minister of Malaysia and other Asia-Pacific premiers.

Reformasi led to the formation of a new multiracial-based party named Parti Keadilan Nasional or National Justice Party (KEADILAN). In 1999, a general election was held. The new KEADILAN, Pan-Malaysian Islamic Party (PAS), and Democratic Action Party (DAP) formed a Barisan Alternatif or Alternative Front (BA), in a combined initiative to replace the standing Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition government. In August 2003, KEADILAN merged with Parti Rakyat Malaysia or Malaysian's People Party (PRM) to form Parti Keadilan Rakyat or People's Justice Party (PKR) headed by Wan Azizah as president. PKR made huge gains in the 2008 general election, winning 31 seats and becoming the parliament's largest opposition party. In April 2008, PKR, PAS and DAP formed a new alliance named Pakatan Rakyat (PR).[30]

Interim years (1999–2007)

First sodomy conviction

In 1999, Anwar brought suit against Prime Minister Mahathir for defamation for allegedly uttering accusations of immoral acts and calling Anwar a homosexual at a news conference in Malaysia.[31]

The sodomy verdict was partially overturned in 2004, resulting in Anwar's release from prison as he had already served his sentence for the corruption offence.[32] Anwar successfully sued Khalid Jafri for his "50 Dalil Kenapa Anwar Tidak Boleh Jadi PM" book, but Khalid died in 2005 of complications from diabetes before the High Court found that he had committed libel and awarded Anwar millions of ringgit in compensation.[33] The Federal Court on 8 March 2010 ruled that the 1998 dismissal of Anwar from his Cabinet posts by Mahathir was constitutional and valid, meaning Anwar had failed in his bid to challenge his sacking.[34][35][36]

An appeal on the corruption charges was heard on 6 September 2004. Under Malaysian law, a person is banned from political activities for five years after the end of his sentence. Success in this appeal would have allowed him to return to politics immediately. On 7 September, the court agreed to hear Anwar's appeal. However, on 15 September, the Court of Appeal ruled unanimously that its previous decision to uphold a High Court ruling that found Anwar guilty was in order, relegating Anwar to the sidelines of Malaysian politics until 14 April 2008. The only way for Anwar to be freed from this stricture would have been for him to receive a pardon from the Yang di-Pertuan Agong.

Teaching and non-profit work

After his release from prison, Anwar held teaching positions at St Antony's College, Oxford, where he was a visiting fellow and senior associate member, at Johns Hopkins University's School of Advanced International Studies in Washington DC as a Distinguished Senior Visiting Fellow, and in 2005–2006 as a visiting professor at the Prince Alwaleed Center for Muslim–Christian Understanding in the School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University.[37] In March 2006 he was appointed as Honorary President of the London-based organisation AccountAbility (Institute of Social and Ethical AccountAbility).[38]

In July 2006, Anwar was elected Chair of the Washington-based Foundation For the Future.[39] In this capacity, he signed 1 October 2006 letter to Robin Cleveland of the World Bank, requesting the transfer of Shaha Riza from the US Department of State to the Foundation for the Future. This transaction led to Paul Wolfowitz's resignation as president of the organisation.[40] He was one of the signatories of "A Common Word Between Us and You" in 2007, an open letter by Islamic scholars to Christian leaders, calling for peace and understanding.

Return to politics

In November 2006, Anwar announced he planned to run for Parliament in 2008 after his disqualification expired. Anwar was critical of government policies after his release from prison, most notably the controversial New Economic Policy (NEP), which provided affirmative action for the Bumiputras. The policy set a number of quotas, such as for units of housing and initial public offerings, that must be met.[41]

Before he became re-entitled to run for Parliament in 2008, he acted as an "advisor" of Parti Keadilan Rakyat, the party of which his wife Dr Wan Azizah was president. He was at the forefront in organising a November 2007 mass rally, called the 2007 Bersih Rally, which took place at Dataran Merdeka, Kuala Lumpur, to demand clean and fair elections. The gathering was organised by Bersih, a coalition comprising political parties and civil society groups, and drew supporters from all over the country.

The 2008 general election date was set for 8 March 2008, before Anwar's disqualification from politics expired, sparking criticisms that Barisan Nasional called for early elections in a bid to deny Anwar's plans for a return to Parliament. In response, Anwar's wife, Wan Azizah Wan Ismail, declared that she would step down should she retain her Permatang Pauh parliamentary seat to force a by-election in which Anwar himself would contest.[42]

When asked about the possibility of Anwar becoming the next Prime Minister, former leader Tun Dr Mahathir reacted by saying, "He would make a good Prime Minister of Israel".[43]

On 14 April 2008, Anwar celebrated his official return to the political stage, as his ban from public office expired a decade after he was fired as Deputy Prime Minister. The opposition seized a third of parliamentary seats and five states in the worst-ever showing for the Barisan Nasional coalition that has ruled for half a century, with Anwar at the helm.[44] A gathering of more than 40,000 supporters greeted Anwar in a rally welcoming his return to politics. Police interrupted Anwar after he had addressed the rally for nearly two hours and called for him to stop the gathering since there was no legal permission for the rally.[45]

On 29 April 2008, after 10 years of absence, he returned to the Parliament, albeit upon invitation as a spouse guest of Wan Azizah Wan Ismail, People's Justice Party and the first female opposition leader in Malaysian Parliament's history.[46]

Permatang Pauh by-election

Anwar Ibrahim was victorious in the Permatang Pauh by-election held on 26 August 2008. Muhammad Muhammad Taib, information chief of the UMNO, stated: "Yes, of course we have lost ... we were the underdogs going into this race."[47] Final results announced by the Election Commission revealed that Anwar Ibrahim won 31,195 of the estimated 47,000 votes cast in the district, while Arif Shah Omar Shah received 15,524 votes and a third candidate had 92 votes.[48][49]

On 28 August 2008, Anwar, dressed in a dark blue traditional Malay outfit and black "songkok" hat, took the oath at the main chamber of Parliament house in Kuala Lumpur, as MP for Permatang Pauh at 10.03 am before Speaker Tan Sri Pandikar Amin Mulia. He formally declared Anwar the leader of the 3-party opposition alliance. With his daughter Nurul Izzah Anwar, also a parliamentarian, Anwar announced: "I'm glad to be back after a decade. The prime minister has lost the mandate of the country and the nation."[50][51] At that time Anwar needed 30 government lawmakers to defect to the Opposition to form the next government.[52][53][54]

First term as Leader of the Opposition (2008–2015)

Anwar Ibrahim speaks at an election campaign as opposition leader.

On 26 August 2008, Anwar won re-election in the Permatang Pauh by-election and returned to Parliament as Leader of the Opposition. He has stated the need for liberalisation, including an independent judiciary and free media, to combat the endemic corruption that he considers pushes Malaysia close to failed state status.[55]

Petition against Najib Razak

Anwar continued to attack Najib on his first day as prime minister, stating he found inconsistencies in the latter's decision to release 13 Internal Security Act (ISA) detainees. He said as long as the ISA existed, Barisan Nasional could still detain citizens at will.[56] In September 2011 Prime Minister Najib Razak acted to abolish the ISA and three other laws.[57] Some members of the opposition did not view this in a positive way.[58]

Attempts to form a majority coalition

Anwar has missed several deadlines he personally set for the transfer of power.[59] Anwar said he would need more time, and the recalibration of his message has not gone unnoticed: Deputy Prime Minister Najib Razak chose that day to initiate a broadband internet program Anwar opposes, saying that he had not doubted that the government would still be in office on 16 September.[60] Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi too pointed out that Anwar had missed his own deadline, and dismissed his claim to have secured the defection of 30 MPs.[61]

By 25 September, Anwar had still not amassed enough votes, creating doubts for Malaysians about whether he was really ready to take power,[62] particularly in light of his failure to meet his own 16 September deadline for the transition of power. In the interim, UMNO had its own party meeting[63][64] to broker Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi's step down from power in June 2009, a year earlier than previously promised[65]

On 24 October 2008, Anwar admitted problems with his stalled bid to topple the UMNO's majority, saying that Pakatan Rakyat is running out of options to create a majority.[66] His "credibility among ordinary Malaysians has been somewhat dented after Sept 16 and the new promise of forming the Government has not generated the sort of anticipation or excitement as before."[67] Media within the country have taken an increasingly hostile view towards Anwar's protestations and failed threats to assemble a majority government.[68]

2013 general election

Anwar during GE13

In the 2013 general election (GE13), Anwar Ibrahim, as the Leader of the Opposition, led his Pakatan Rakyat coalition (comprising the three parties DAP, PAS, and PKR) to contest in the election. On 25 February 2013, Pakatan Rakyat launched their manifesto titled The People’s Manifesto: Pakatan the hope of the people, pledging to reduce their financial burden, among other promises.[69][70] Anwar said that he would step down from politics if his team did not win the election. During an interview with Australian media, he stated that "I will try my best. I am confident we will win. But if not, I will step down."[71]

Anwar speaking at a rally denouncing the May 2013 election results.

Pakatan Rakyat did not achieve the regime change target in the election despite obtaining 50.9% of the popular vote compared to the 47.4% gained by Barisan Nasional. This was attributed to the heavy malapportionment of the electoral districts.[72] Pakatan Rakyat also gained 7 more parliamentary seats compared to the 12th general election.

Anwar did not concede defeat, alleging widespread electoral fraud. Al Jazeera reported that Anwar Ibrahim came close to winning the election on 5 May 2013 but refused to admit defeat, and therefore also did not step down.[73] In an interview for ABC News, interviewer Jim Middleton suggested that Anwar Ibrahim was going to be the Lee Kuan Yew of the Malaysian opposition.[74][75] Anwar answered that he was not at that stage yet.

On 7 May 2013, Anwar Ibrahim vowed to lead a "fierce movement" to reform the country's electoral system and challenge the results of an election he lost.[76] On 8 May 2013, about 120,000 people wearing black gathered at Petaling Jaya Stadium, Kelana Jaya, Selangor, to attend a rally organised by Anwar to protest against the election results and demand a free and fair election.[77] The #Black505 movement continued for another 2 months with touring all over the country. A successful fundraising #Black505 dinner was held in Thean Hou Temple hall on 22 June 2013, hosted by Wangsa Maju MP Datuk Dr Tan Kee Kwong on behalf of PKR. Anwar Ibrahim immediately launched electoral petitions for over 30 disputed parliamentary seats in July 2013. However, the cases were thrown off election court for technical reasons.[78]

Kajang Move

On 27 January 2014, the member of the Selangor State Legislative Assembly for Kajang, Lee Chin Cheh, resigned.[79] This triggered a by-election. A day later, Anwar Ibrahim was announced as Pakatan Rakyat candidate for the by-election.[80] Anwar's candidacy was originally to propel him to become Selangor's Menteri Besar.[81] Later, this move was known as the "Kajang Move".

This move, however, did not materialize as he was sentenced to five years' prison after Malaysia's Court of Appeal overturned his sodomy acquittal, causing Anwar to lose his qualification to be the state assembly candidate.[82] On 9 March 2014, PKR announced party president Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail as its new candidate for the Kajang by-election.[83] Anwar's Datuk Seri title was stripped by the Sultan of Selangor for "repeated questioning of the integrity" of the state's ruler during the subsequent crisis that saw the Sultan refuse to appoint Wan Azizah as Menteri Besar.[84] Anwar was able to continue using the "Datuk Seri" title because it had also been conferred on him by several other Malaysian states.[85]

Second sodomy conviction

2008 allegations of sodomy

On 29 June 2008, online news portal Malaysiakini reported that a male aide of Anwar, Saiful Bukhari Azlan, had lodged a police report claiming that he had been sodomised by Anwar.[86] Anwar said that the possibility of a prison sentence as a result of the allegations could be seen as an attempt to remove him from the leadership of the opposition following his growing support and by-election victories. He also reaffirmed his innocence and cited evidence in the form of medical reports.[55] In July 2008, he was arrested over allegations of sodomy again, but was acquitted of the charge in January 2012 by The High Court.[87] The presiding judge ruled that DNA evidence used in the case had been compromised and was unreliable.[88] The prosecution filed an appeal against the acquittal.[89] In March 2014 the appeal court overruled the high Court reinstating the conviction. The decision came as Anwar was preparing to contest a by-election on 23 March 2014, which he was expected to win. The conviction prevented him from standing. Human Rights Watch was critical of the decision, saying it was politically motivated.[90]

Two years later, The Court of Appeal overturned the acquittal by unanimously deciding that the High Court failed to "critically evaluate" the evidence submitted by government chemist Dr Seah Lay Hong.[91] As part of his overturned acquittal on 4 March 2014, Anwar was sentenced to five years in jail. Human Rights Watch and the International Commission of Jurists have accused the Malaysian government of meddling in this particular judicial matter and said the verdict was politically motivated.[92] On 10 February 2015, the Federal Court of Malaysia upheld the decision of the Court of Appeal and affirmed the five-year prison sentence. He was sent immediately to Sungai Buloh Prison, Selangor, to serve the sentence.[93]

Pakatan Harapan backbencher (2018–2020)

Royal pardon and release

After the Pakatan Rakyat's dissolution during his imprisonment, a new opposition coalition named the Pakatan Harapan was formed with Anwar as the de facto leader in absentia. The coalition had come into power by over-throwing Barisan Nasional in the 2018 general election (GE14). Following the formation of the new ruling government, Anwar was given a full royal pardon and was released from prison on 16 May 2018. He was designated to take over the reins from interim Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad as planned and agreed by the coalition before GE14.[94][95] In an interview, he justified his reluctance to immediately step into power on the basis that Mahathir has appeared committed to the reform agenda, and doing a good job tackling a "disintegrating" political system. He also added that he was keen to travel and honour speaking engagements.[96] Anwar also indicated that he initially had reservations about Mahathir's "reconciliation efforts", but he eventually forgave his former enemy after Mahathir showed "compassion and concern which (Anwar) thought was absent in the past".

Return to politics and PD Move

Anwar contested in the Port Dickson by-election, dubbed as PD Move which was set to allow him to return to Parliament.[97] He won with an increased majority, albeit with a lower turnout, and returned to parliament again after 3 years of absence.

Sheraton Move and return to opposition

In late February 2020, the Pakatan Harapan government of Dr Mahathir Mohamad collapsed following defections by Anwar's deputy, Azmin Ali, and several PKR MP's aligned to him, along with the withdrawal of Bersatu from Pakatan Harapan. Mahathir promptly resigned from the premiership, as well as from his party, Bersatu. The political manoeuvring has been labelled the "Sheraton Move" for the hotel in Petaling Jaya at which defecting MP's gathered with the opposition to show support for a new government.[98] Following the resignation of Mahathir, Anwar attempted to gather support for his appointment as Prime Minister. However, Bersatu president, Muhyiddin Yassin, was eventually appointed Prime Minister, with the support of a slender majority in the Dewan Rakyat.[99] Thus, Pakatan Harapan returned to the opposition benches, while Anwar was named Opposition Leader.[100]

Second term as Leader of the Opposition (2020-present)

While Muhyiddin formed a government under the auspices of a new coalition known as Perikatan Nasional, Mahathir attempted to regain his post with his Pakatan allies. However, under Anwar's leadership, Keadilan refused to endorse Mahathir's bid for a third term as premier, claiming the nonagenarian had reneged on his repeated pledge to handover the office to Anwar.[101] Mahathir, in turn, refused to lend support to Anwar's candidacy, and instead nominated Sabah Chief Minister, Shafie Apdal, for the Prime Minister's post instead. Despite the support of allies DAP and Amanah for this compromise, Keadilan again rejected the proposal and continued to propose Anwar as the coalition candidate.[102]

In September 2020, Anwar claimed to have gathered support from a "formidable" majority of MP's for his appointment as Prime Minister.[103]

Views and comments on various issues

External influence and interference through APCO in 1Malaysia claims

Anwar has made numerous remarks about a supposed conspiracy among the Malaysian government, APCO (a public relations firm retained by the Malaysian government), Israel, and the United States. Anwar has condemned the Malaysian government for seeking advice from APCO. He claims that the firm is linked to the "murder of Muslims in Palestine." He further claims to have given proof to a disciplinary committee of the Malaysian parliament, investigating his comments, that APCO is a front for the Israeli government. On another occasion, Anwar, speaking from the parliament, claimed that the firm was controlled by Jews and working on behalf of the American government to influence Malaysian foreign policy. He further implied that changes in Malaysian foreign policy could only be explained if Jews were manipulating Malaysia for the United States.[104]

On 22 April 2010 Anwar was censured by Malaysia's parliament for remarks he made during a press conference in parliament on 30 March 2010. During the press conference, Anwar claimed to have documents linking 1Malaysia with One Israel and the public relations firm APCO but refused to allow access to the documents when challenged.[105] The Malaysian government and APCO have both strongly denied Anwar's allegations. The censure motion passed by the House of Representatives referred Anwar's case to the Rights and Privileges Committee which will recommend a punishment for approval by the full chamber. Such punishment could include being banned from parliament.[106][107][108] However Anwar retaliated against the Malaysian government attacks by producing two documents to support his claims of links between APCO and 1Malaysia.[107][108]

Comments about Jewish people

In a press conference at the London School of Economics in March 2010, Anwar made comments about Zionists and "nasty Jews". In the press conference, he also stated that "There are good Jews, there are bad Jews, there are good Muslims and bad Muslims."[109]

In May 2010, B'nai B'rith International, a prominent Jewish human rights organisation, condemned Anwar in a letter to the United States Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, claiming that Anwar was a "purveyor of anti-Jewish hatred" and asked the American government to suspend all contact with Anwar.[110]

2012 Israeli-Palestinian Security comments

In an interview with The Wall Street Journal, Anwar Ibrahim stated, "I think our policy should be clear—protect the security [of Israel] but you must be as firm in protecting the legitimate interests of the Palestinians."[111]

This comment sparked an array of criticism from UMNO, one of the ruling party then. UMNO's MP Khairy Jamaluddin stated that Anwar's comments "show a blanket support for anything Israel does" and that "The issue of Palestine is a top foreign policy priority for my party, it would be an issue during the election year or otherwise… timing doesn’t matter.".[112]

Former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohammad then said he was not surprised by Anwar's comments, and stated concerning Ibrahim's relationship with the Jewish community, "You can't be friendly with them and against them".[113]

Later, Anwar clarified his stand; he said that the remarks were consistent with the two-state solution adopted by the United Nations that is accepted by the Arab world, as well as Malaysia and Hamas.[114]

"I am issuing a stern warning to anyone trying to twist my statement just so that they can say that I have betrayed the aspirations of the Palestinian people", he said, continuing with stating that his party's stance "is to defend the rights of whoever it is that has been victimized".[112]

Views on gay marriage and homosexuality

In an interview with The Wall Street Journal, Anwar stated that while he opposes gay marriage and upholds the sanctity of marriage between men and women, laws on sodomy in Malaysia must be changed as they are "archaic".[115]

In an interview with British Broadcasting Corporation, Anwar reaffirmed his belief that marriage should remain between men and women. Clarifying his comments to The Wall Street Journal, Anwar maintained that he does not advocate legalising homosexuality or making gay marriage permissible—only that the laws should be amended to ensure private affairs are not penalised. "It is not my business to attack people or arrest people based on their sexual orientation," he said. "Morality is in the public sphere, not beyond that."[116]

Personal life

He is married to former Deputy Prime Minister Wan Azizah Wan Ismail on 26 February 1980,[117] and they have five daughters and a son. His eldest daughter, Nurul Izzah Anwar, is also an MP for Permatang Pauh.[118]

Awards and recognitions

Honours of Malaysia

  •  Pahang :
    • Grand Knight of the Order of Sultan Ahmad Shah of Pahang (SSAP) – Dato' Sri (1990)
  •  Malacca :
    • Grand Commander of the Order of Malacca (DGSM) – Datuk Seri (1991)
  •  Penang :
    • Companion of the Order of the Defender of State (DMPN) – Dato' (1991)
    • Knight Grand Commander of the Order of the Defender of State (DUPN) – Dato' Seri Utama (1994)
  •  Negeri Sembilan :
    • Principal Grand Knight of the Order of Loyalty to Negeri Sembilan (SPNS) – Dato' Seri Utama (1994)
  •  Sabah :
    • Grand Commander of the Order of Kinabalu (SPDK) – Datuk Seri Panglima (1994)
  •  Selangor :
    • Knight Grand Companion of the Order of Sultan Salahuddin Abdul Aziz Shah (SSSA) – Dato' Seri (1992, revoked 3 November 2014)
  •  Perak :
    • Grand Knight of the Order of Cura Si Manja Kini (SPCM) – Dato' Seri (1995)
  •  Perlis :
    • Knight Grand Companion of the Order of the Gallant Prince Syed Putra Jamalullail (SSPJ) – Dato' Seri Diraja (1995)

Election results

Parliament of Malaysia[119][120][121]
Year Constituency Votes Pct Opponent(s) Votes Pct Ballots cast Majority Turnout
1982 P41 Permatang Pauh, Penang Anwar Ibrahim (UMNO) 18,849 74.88% Zabidi Ali (PAS) 4,497 17.90% 25,885 14,352 Unknown
Tan Ah Huat (DAP) 1,825 7.25%
1986 Anwar Ibrahim (UMNO) 17,979 70.56% Mohamad Sabu (PAS) 7,500 29.44% 26,098 10,479 74.82%
1990 Anwar Ibrahim (UMNO) 23,793 75.69% Mahfuz Omar (PAS) 7,643 24.31% 31,740 16,150 78.32%
1995 P44 Permatang Pauh, Penang Anwar Ibrahim (UMNO) 27,945 76.08% Abdul Rahman Manap (DAP) 4,715 12.84% 37,618 23,230 78.79%
Mazani Abdullah (PAS) 4,071 11.08%
2008 Anwar Ibrahim (PKR) 31,195 66.64% Arif Shah Omar Shah (UMNO) 15,524 33.16% 47,258 15,671 80.84%
Hanafi Mamat (AKIM) 92 0.20%
2013 Anwar Ibrahim (PKR) 37,090 58.56% Mazlan Ismail (UMNO) 25,369 40.06% 63,332 11,721 88.33%
Abdullah Zawawi Samsudin (Ind) 201 0.32%
2018 P132 Port Dickson, Negeri Sembilan Anwar Ibrahim (PKR) 31,016 71.32% Mohd Nazari Mokhtar (PAS) 7,456 17.14% 43,489 23,560 58.25%
Mohd Isa Abdul Samad (Ind) 4,230 9.73%
Stevie Chan Keng Leong (Ind) 337 0.78%
Lau Seck Yan (Ind) 214 0.49%
Kan Chee Yuen (Ind) 154 0.35%
Saiful Bukhari Azlan (Ind) 82 0.19%

See also

  • Caucus on Reform and Governance
  • Port Dickson (federal constituency)
  • Permatang Pauh (federal constituency)


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Other references


  • Victor Pogadaev. Anwar Ibrahim – A Phoenix Rising From Ashes
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