Malaysia's Anwar unveils Cabinet, picks scandal-hit ally as deputy

Kyodo News

Posted at Dec 03 2022 10:52 AM

KUALA LUMPUR - Malaysia's new Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim unveiled his Cabinet Friday, naming himself finance minister and rewarding politicians who helped him secure power, including a scandal-tainted close ally.

Expectations for a reformist government had been high for Anwar, who had campaigned on a platform of fighting corruption in a recent general election that resulted in a hung parliament.

But analysts fear that his Cabinet is merely based on political expediency, given his delicate task of placating demands from various political parties and fulfilling his pledge for a clean and lean government. His choice of Ahmad Zahid Hamidi could also prove to be a shackle on his administration, they say.

Anwar, 75, was sworn in as premier last Thursday after successfully cobbling together a unity government comprising four coalitions with 17 political parties in total, in addition to a couple of independent legislators.

Zahid, the president of the former ruling party, United Malays National Organization, who has been named as one of Anwar's two deputies, is currently facing dozens of corruption charges in court. But he was also influential in bringing in the numbers to enable Anwar to form his government.

Anwar's multiethnic Pakatan Harapan or Alliance of Hope won 81 seats, followed by the conservative ethnic Malay Muslim-centric Perikatan Nasional or the National Alliance, led by former Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin, which took 73 seats in the House of Representatives, the lower house of the parliament.

However, Malaysia practices the "first-past-the-post" system, meaning the party that wins 112 of the 222 seats in the lower house can form the government. But for the first time, none of the coalitions succeeded in securing a simple majority.

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UMNO, the lynchpin of the Barisan Nasional or the National Front, played a key role in breaking the deadlock by throwing its 30 seats to PH.

Anwar then secured the support of two more blocs from Sabah and Sarawak states in Borneo, bringing him a super majority of 148 seats in the lower house.

But Keith Leong, of public consultancy think tank KRA Group, told Kyodo News that the supermajority is no assurance for Anwar, as "the reality is that this is a grand coalition government."

==Kyodo