After decades in opposition, and sometimes in jail for that opposition to the long-ruling Barisan Nasional coalition in Malaysia, Anwar Ibrahim, now in his seventies, finally became prime minister at the end of 2022. To achieve his long-time goal, he had to make political compromises, most notably allying his own coalition, powered by younger, reform-minded voters and non-Malay voters, with that of the rump of the Barisan Nasional (BN) in order to have enough votes to form a majority in parliament.
Still, even with many of his own supporters doubting that Anwar, now linked to the rump BN, could tackle much-needed reforms like deep-rooted corruption in politics and business, the sluggish economy, the weak education system, and the entrenched power of tycoons and monopolies in many industries, his elevation to the top job seemed to auger change. After all, with one of the world’s most famous democracy, rights, and reform advocates in charge, surely Malaysian politics, business, and society would begin to change.
Slightly more than a year into Anwar’s time as prime minister, though, he has scant progress to show on any front. For more on the failings of Anwar and his ruling coalition, see my new World Politics Review article.