Anwar will have his work cut out for him to address the economy, and the social and institutional fabric of the nation
In May 1997, he was entrusted to hold covering functions for the prime minister (PM) when Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, in an unprecedented move, took a two-month long break for holidays and foreign visits, with the then PM later admitted that it was an internship for Anwar before taking over the helm of the nation at the peak of Malaysia’s industrialisation years.
Immortalised on the pages of international magazines, Anwar was heralded as the future of Asia, leader of the next generation.
Fast forward a year later, came the full-fledged currency crisis, followed closely by Anwar’s sacking from Umno, the reformasi movement, jailing, formation of Parti Keadilan Nasional (PKR), jailing again and the incumbent Barisan Nasional’s (BN) loss of its sway states and later its customary two-thirds majority, then a simple majority loss, and finally, a stalemate that sees Anwar’s momentous swearing in as the 10th PM at the Palace last Thursday.
And last Friday, he received a hugely magnanimous congratulatory message from Dr Mahathir, with a good luck wish to boot.
Anwar will have his work cut out for him though, as, even though he’s back to where he proverbially belongs, the economy, social and institutional fabric of the nation are arguably in a worse state than they were 25 years ago.
Once he hit the Putrajaya ground, it won’t take long for him to realise the magnitude of work needed to be done on key areas, and in fulfilling the 10 priorities that his party, PKR, and coalition Pakatan Harapan (PH) laid out in their election manifesto.
The end does not justify the means.
As much as the rakyat is believed to have a short memory, not many would forget that in the final run-up to breaking the hung Parliament impasse, Anwar had to deal with the devil in courting BN to pledge allegiance in PH’s court.
It was a sad day for purists as PH’s war rally for GE15 (15th general election) was to end corruption and reject corrupt leaders — a common cry used by the other major coalitions, Perikatan Nasional (PN) and Gerakan Tanah Air.
But as the PH versus PN dead-lock threatened to drag with the whole world watching, Anwar went to persuade Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, deliberately over- looking the BN chairman’s tainted image of scandals and ongoing corruption court cases.
Most will wonder of the extent of the deal cut with Ahmad Zahid, and, as the perennial purveyor of transparency and clean leadership, Anwar must judiciously manage the perception, as the end cannot be seen as a justification of means.
Humble in victory, magnanimous in defeat.
As PH’s biggest benefactor, the action by DAP’s Anthony Loke to quietly meet and apologise to Gagasan Pakatan Sarawak on past squabbles is highly commendable, regarded as the strategic move that won PH solid support from the East Malaysian coalition, without having to go through potentially gruelling negotiations.
It will have a major bearing on the no-confidence motion at the Dewan Rakyat on Dec 19.
One would not be able to pull it off without staying humble in victory. The rejuvenation of the DAP to move the party towards a more progressive, moderate and sustainable- ble politics is certainly bearing fruit.
And DAP is not the only party reforming its ideologies and identities to match expectations from a plural and inclusive community.
On the other side of the spectrum is PAS, where their magnanimousness in defeat and their altruistic approach has won plaudits many times over.
With 49 Parliamentary seats, the party is comfortably the single biggest winner of GE15, but their willingness to accept an opportunity lost by congratulating PH, without much fanfare, has converted many detractors into believers. It’s a breath of fresh air from these new faces.
Perhaps, the future is not so bleak after all.
- Asuki Abas is the editor at The Malaysian Reserve.
- This article first appeared in The Malaysian Reserve weekly print edition