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Editorial

A pyrrhic victory at the end of Anwar's lifelong dream

While Anwar Ibrahim has finally achieved his decades-long dream, it marred by the circumstances and lack of support from a crucial section of voters.

Abdar Rahman Koya
2 minute read
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Anwar Ibrahim is finally the prime minister, after spending four decades of his political career trying to get to the top office.

This followed a nail-biting wait as the Agong looked for clues to convince him of who had the majority.

In the end, it is up to the Agong to name anyone who in his judgment is likely to command the confidence of the majority, and his decision cannot be challenged, no matter what mathematical explanation is given to show that he has no majority support.

Anwar's road to premiership was perhaps the most eventful of all of his predecessors, with two stints in jail for sodomy and Anwar himself coming within arm's reach of the post time and time again. 

Finally, it came to him but not in the way he dreamt of when he first set foot on this path in 1982, as a young Umno leader brought into the government by Dr Mahathir Mohamad in the hope of countering the huge challenge posed by PAS to Umno's vote bank.

For a few general elections, it did give Mahathir and Umno the edge, pushing PAS to the periphery of Malay politics for the next two decades.

When he was sacked in 1998, his Islamic credentials and the impact on Umno were put to the test. True enough, a large section of Malays were disenchanted with the government, as shown in the election a year later, which marked the start of PAS' return to mainstream politics.

The next 20 years would show a gradual decline of Anwar's popularity among the Malays. A resurgent Umno cleverly exploited his alignment with a party that had long been an anathema to the Malays for various reasons that should be objectively studied.

As such, it is ironic that the man who was brought into the government to ramp up Malay support for the ruling party is now denied that from the very same community.

The outcome of the 15th general election – where Malay voters overwhelmingly backed a young coalition led by a man who had never publicly declared his ambition until recently – does not augur well for Anwar, as he becomes perhaps the first prime minister without the crucial ethnic majority by his side.

The aftermath of the election may be even more disastrous for Anwar's reputation. 

The image of Anwar and other top Pakatan Harapan leaders going to Umno's backyard to offer a truce will be etched in the minds of millions of voters including young first-timers who watched as promises of not working with scandal-tainted leaders vanished even before the ink had worn off from their fingers.

Anwar's climb to premiership is at best a pyrrhic victory. It is definitely not how a lifelong dream should be achieved.

In the words of the Agong, the winners didn't win everything, and the losers didn't lose everything. That is putting mildly the fact that a large section of the masses are not with this new prime minister.

The events of the next few weeks and months will tell if Anwar can live out such a dream in a Malaysia that remembers every word and action of its politicians.