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‘I waited 24 years for this’: Malaysians celebrate Anwar’s rise

For supporters of Anwar Ibrahim, 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 stalemate that followed last weekend’s inconclusive general election and named him the 10th prime minister of the country.

It was a remarkable comeback for Anwar, who has spent nearly three decades in opposition, including 10 years in prison on sodomy and corruption charges he said were politically motivated.

Many Malaysians on Twitter responded with joyous disbelief.

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“I was at the airport when the 10pm announcement was made,” Twitter user @itsraenu_ wrote. “I heard people scream and saw people grin from ear to ear.”

“Anwar’s revival is something to be inspired by for many generations to come,” Twitter user @CHKen_2 wrote. “I waited 24 years for this, went through all kinds of political betrayals, and even endured imprisonment, but I never gave up on him. Keep believing.”

Anwar, a former deputy prime minister, seemed poised to take the top job in 1998 before being sacked from the government after falling out with then-prime minister Mahathir Mohamad over his handling of the Asian financial crisis. Anwar was later charged with sodomy, a crime in Malaysia, and corruption. Tens of thousands took to the streets in defense of the charismatic leader and his calls for “reformasi,” or reform.

But he was jailed the following year.

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Anwar managed to win an acquittal on the sodomy charge in 2004, but was jailed again in 2015 on similar charges. From jail in 2018, he coordinated an opposition alliance and even joined forces with his former mentor-turned-foe Mahathir to oust then-Prime Minister Najib Razak amid the multibillion-dollar corruption scandal at the state fund 1MDB.

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At this time, Anwar was officially appointed prime minister-in-waiting, but was again denied the post when renewed clashes with Mahathir brought down his government. Amid the instability, Najib’s United Malays National Organization (UMNO), which had been roundly rejected by voters in the 2018 ballot, returned to government, though Najib himself was jailed after the first of five 1MDB-linked trials.

For Anwar’s followers, his rise to the top after decades of turmoil is a testament to the power of persistence.

Anwar “taught us to never give up on dreams,” Twitter user @aidarazman wrote. “PM at 75? We have so much more to experience.”

“It’s hard not to be emotional looking at this, knowing the challenges he and his family have faced,” @edwardkuruvilla wrote, posting a photo of Anwar’s swearing-in ceremony. “May his term be excellent,” he added.

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Many of the new leader’s supporters also mocked Mahathir, now 97, blamed for thwarting Anwar’s ambitions. The former prime minister was unable to defend his seat in Saturday’s election, and he failed to win even 12.5 percent of the vote needed to recoup the thousands of Malaysian ringgit he paid as electoral deposit.

“God made Mahathir live long enough to see Anwar Ibrahim become Prime Minister of Malaysia,” Twitter user @_nsyakinah wrote.

“Don’t forget that Dr. Mahathir not only lived to see his deposit removed in an election and his sole political purpose for the last 30 years, to prevent Anwar Ibrahim from being Prime Minister, finally happened… but as a former Prime Minister, he did. will. being invited to attend Anwar’s swearing-in as well,” Twitter user @amirulruslan wrote.

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“What a year,” @mhmgrgie wrote. “Najib is going to jail. Mahathir loses his trust and now Anwar is prime minister. Historic would be an understatement…”

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Anwar’s supporters also took a moment to appreciate his wife, Wan Azizah Wan Ismail, who they say has been instrumental in his rise.

Twitter user @JustinTWJ described the 69-year-old as the “Mother of Reformasi”, highlighting her role in leading Anwar’s Reformasi movement after his imprisonment and her role in mobilizing the alliance that ousted Najib. “I can’t imagine the strength he has to do it all.”

Twitter user @tsimitha wrote: “This amazing woman who was at the heart of the Reformasi movement made this day happen! Women are born leaders!”

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For his part, Anwar said on Twitter that he would assume the duties entrusted to him with “the utmost humility.”

“Without your support and effort, we would not be able to achieve this today,” he added.

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