Former Malaysian deputy Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim was sworn in as a member of parliament on Monday after winning a by-election over the weekend.
The brief oath taking ceremony was held at the lower house of parliament in front of other serving lawmakers to the cheers and applause of fellow lawmakers from the ruling Pakatan Harapan coalition.
In a brief message, House Speaker Mohd Ariff Md Yusof expressed confidence in Anwar to contribute towards parliamentary reforms which the new government had pledged after taking power in the May general election.
“I am confident that you can contribute towards bringing parliamentary reforms to improve the prestige and uphold the dignity of this institution,” he said.
Anwar won the by-election with a convincing manner by securing more than 70 percent of the votes, despite a low turnout of some 58 percent.
As Anwar is not a cabinet minister, he joined the parliament as a backbencher.
Speaking to the press shortly after his swearing in, Anwar said he would support the government as a parliament member and help implement parliamentary reforms as promised in his party’s election manifesto.
On whether a timeline had been set for the handover of power from Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad to him, Anwar said that was not an issue.
“Let him and his cabinet have the space unaffected by time or pressure because there are some very fundamental decisions related to policy that they must resolve,” he said.
The reconciliation between Mahathir and Anwar was crucial for Pakatan Harapan’s victory, and Mahathir has promised to hand over the premiership to Anwar.
Local political observer Hoo Ke Ping expected Anwar would be focus on consolidating power in his own People’s Justice Party (PKR), which holds the largest number of parliament seats within the Pakatan Harapan coalition government.
Since being granted a royal pardon on his sodomy conviction after the general election, Anwar has won the presidency of his PKR unchallenged.
However, a fierce race has emerged for Anwar’s deputy between Economic Affairs Minister Mohamed Azmin Ali and Mohd Rafizi bin Ramli, whom many see as close to Anwar.
Professor Azmi Hassan from University of Technology Malaysia expected Anwar to project himself as a prime minister during debates, “to demonstrate that he is capable of handling the job over the next 2 years as the public will use his performance to gauge his ability to lead the nation.”
Anwar would face the delicate task of balancing the public’s perception of him as the country’s future leader while keeping a good relationship with Mahathir, Azmi said.