Four key questions as Anwar Ibrahim begins as Malaysia's new PM

Reformist politician Anwar Ibrahim was sworn in as Malaysia's 10th prime minister on Thursday, ending a days-long political impasse after an inconclusive weekend election.

The 75-year-old became the country's fourth leader in as many years amid hopes for political stability, capping a turbulent career that has included jail time on widely criticised sodomy and corruption charges.

Here are some key questions as he starts his rule:

What is Anwar’s biggest challenge?

"His biggest challenge will be to lead Malaysia out of the economic malaise following the pandemic," James Chin, a professor of Asian studies at the University of Tasmania, told AFP.

"His appointment will also be welcomed internationally since Anwar is known as a Muslim democrat worldwide."

Malaysians are facing soaring food prices, a tumbling ringgit currency and stagnant wages.

The government has revised its growth forecast for 2022 to 6.5-7.0 percent from 5.3-6.3 percent for this year, but expects economic growth to slow to 4.0-5.0 percent next year.

Oh Ei Sun of the Pacific Research Center of Malaysia, said: "Anwar's biggest challenge will be to pass the budget and revive the economy."

Asrul Hadi Abdullah Sani, deputy managing director at strategic advisory firm Bower Group Asia, said: "One of his agendas is to ensure he is able to fulfil his reform agenda as he looks to stabilise a loosely cobbled federal coalition."

What will happen to Najib and the fight against corruption?

Anwar, who campaigned on a strong anti-corruption platform, has said he will not intervene in the court process.

Former prime minister Najib Razak is serving a 12-year jail term for corruption linked to his role in a massive financial scandal at state fund 1MDB, and faces dozens more charges that could keep him in prison longer.

Several leaders of the former ruling party, the United Malays National Organisation (UMNO), are also facing corruption charges.

Anwar said before his appointment he would let those cases run their course.

How are Malaysians reacting to Anwar’s appointment?

"I got goosebumps, seriously," said 36-year-old Norhafitzah Ashruff Hassan. "He fought hard to be given the chance to be PM. I hope he performs well and proves his worth."

Muhammad Taufiq Zamri, a 37-year-old product manager, agreed. "I cannot express in words the ecstatic feeling I have at the announcement. A sense of optimism now flows and I believe Anwar will lead the country forward."

What is the Malaysian monarchy and why did the king need to intervene?

Largely Malay Muslim Malaysia is a constitutional monarchy with a unique arrangement where the throne rotates every five years between rulers of the nine states. The states are headed by centuries-old Islamic royalty called sultans.

The system has been in place since Malaysia's independence from Britain in 1957.

While their role is largely ceremonial, Malaysia's Islamic royalty command great respect, especially from Muslim Malays, and criticising them is strictly forbidden.

The king has the discretionary power to appoint a premier whom he believes has the majority of lawmakers' support.

Malaysia's current king, Sultan Abdullah Sultan Ahmad Shah, had to intervene after a political stalemate because there was no clear winner in the elections and there were two rival claims to the premiership.

He summoned the political parties and consulted with his fellow sultans as he called for a unity government to be set up.

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