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Anwar's first 100 days: from hope to concern Anwar's first 100 days: from hope to concern
by Murray Hunter
2023-03-08 09:38:50
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The formation of the Anwar government

Pakatan Harapan had an unexpected win in last general election. Pakatan Harapan’s percentage of the aggregate vote went down from 45 percent in 2018 to 38 percent in 2022. The 2022 general election result didn’t allow any individual political block to form a government on their own.

Perikatan Nasional (PN) leader, Muhyiddin Yassin was given the first opportunity by the Yang Di-PertuanAgong, or king to form a government. Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, leader of the Barisan Nasional (BN) pulling out of the PN-BN coalition agreement at the last minute, left Muhyiddin Yassin in the lurch. The king then called on Anwar Ibrahim to form a unity government with BN, and later GabunanParti Sarawak (GPS), Gabunan Rakyat Sabah (GRS), and Warisanjoining the fray. The vote of confidence for Anwar as prime minister appeared to have a two-thirds majority on the floor of the Dewan Rakyat.

Anwar finally succeeded in his long journey to the premiership. However, Anwar Ibrahim, or PMX as he is called, has a huge obligation to many people. The policies, actions and behaviour of Anwar’s administration should be viewed from this perspective.


From the PN side of politics, Anwar is seen as taking the position of prime minister in a cloud of illegitimacy, due to the treachery of Zahid. PN believed they should have been the rightful government, because they had the biggest single block of seats in the new parliament.

In contrast, Pakatan’s supporters were jubilant. UMNO was split into two factions, that has led to infighting and expulsions from the party by the Zahid led Supreme Council.

It took Anwar nine days to put a cabinet together. The final announcement on December 2 of the cabinet was delayed almost four hours, while final negotiations were undertaken. This was the first sign that that the cabinet was formed on agreements, IOUs, and trade-offs. Nevertheless, Anwar was able to place a number of loyalists within the cabinet, a decision that sacrificed competence, and experience to get the people he wanted.

Anwar had to project his legitimacy during the first 100 days. We have witnessed Anwar’s trips abroad to meet with regional leaders, and his domestic visits to sultans and governors. This was done with public engagements around the country.

After 100 days, Anwar, except for the launch of his Malaysia Madani philosophy, has not personally outlined any visionary ‘hard policies’. This he has primarily left to his respective ministers. Which could be an indication that Anwar is running his administration as a chairman of the board, rather than a hands on micro manager.

After the first 100 days, Anwar has created the ambiance of stability for his government. Within a sea of threats to his government, Anwar looks set with the potential to govern a full term. However, the coming six state election dur sometime after June will be a major challenge to his stability. If his government holds Penang, Selangor, and Negri Sembilan, this could be considered a victory for Anwar.

Economic management

To a great extent, political stability will depend upon the economy. The expected GDP growth this year is forecast at 4 percent. The official inflation rate is also around 4 percent, but much higher in the food category. Many are still financially suffering from the harsh Covid-19 restrictions over the last 3 years, where the incidence of poverty has increased dramatically.

The domestic demand bubble of 2022, where GDP grew by 7.8 percent is not reoccurring this year. Therefore, the economy will depend much more on exports once again. However, at this time the global economy is very fragile.

Anwar’s recent budget hasn’t addressed the issue of growing poverty. No welfare net was developed, as both the Pakatan and BN election manifestos pledged. Much of the budget continued to rely on handouts and subsidies.

On the market side, nothing was done to break down the government regulated monopolies, or further deregulate the economy. The future of GLCs appears intact. The trend of big spending continues with Anwar delivering the largest budget ever.

There should be some benefit of doubt given to Anwar, as he effectively had only two months to prepare the revised 2023 budget. The budget was still based upon the traditional template past governments have employed, with no signs of any major policy rethink. It appears the budget had the coming six state elections in mind.

Social and other policy reform

As mentioned above, Anwar has left many policy announcements to his respective ministers themselves. Most new policy announcements have been undertaken on an ad hoc basis. There doesn’t appear to be any grand vision behind them, except for Anwar’s expensive launch of Malaysia Madani. 

Some of the more bizarre acts undertaken was the free sanitary napkins handed out at the health ministry to assist in reliving poverty (civil servants are by no means living in poverty), and the deployment of RM 2 nasi lemak meals by vending machines at train stations.

Conferring Malaysian citizenship upon children born to Malaysian mothers and foreign fathers overseas was accepted as a very positive move. However, the bill has yet to go through parliament, so a constitutional amendment can be made. The clampdown on corruption has been welcomed by many. However, some see that arrests are skewed towards opposition politicians. These arrests continue to highlight Ahmad Zahid Hamidi’s position as deputy prime minister with 47 criminal charges hanging over his head.

The appointment of Anwar’s daughter, Nurul Izzah led to widespread distain and claims of nepotism. Damage control was poor with claims she was working pro bono. This eventually led to her transfer to another job. Home minister SaifiddinNasution Ismail’s statement that the SOSMA laws, which allow for detention pending police investigation, angered many of Pakatan’s old reformasi era supporters. Anwar also claimed the civil service is in no need of reform, which cast doubts about his administration’s willingness to tackle the difficult issues facing the nation.

Regional Affairs

Anwar has made it a very high priority to travel the region to meet with political leaders. Before Anwar’s visit to Thailand, the media drummed up the story that Anwar would be able to settle issues within Thailand’s deep south insurgency. However, Anwar has run into a quagmire with the regional body ASEAN, where from Thailand’s lead there is great hesitancy to criticize the military junta in Myanmar. It appears Anwar will not be able to play a major role through ASEAN, due to the lost inertia of the organization. Anwar’s key challenge will be creating a balance between China, Malaysia’s largest trading partner, and the US within the South China Sea region.

Where is the Anwar administration heading?

Putting popularity polls aside, Anwar’s key challenge will be to increase his popularity in the Malay heartlands. In reality, Anwar will have to sit back on reforms until this problem is successfully addressed. Anwar may also have to prepare for a setback to his legitimacy with the coming 6 state elections. However, his term will still has four years to run.

We are seeing a prime minister who is not following the precedents of the previous prime ministers. His ‘hands off’ approach will work very well if he has a good cabinet. He doesn’t have that today. His new ministry with so much inexperience can be expected to make numerous mistakes over the coming year or so.

At this point of time, the Anwar administration looks very much like a status quo government, which is probably the most prudent, and conservative way to go. Anwar doesn’t have the wow factor that Thailand’s Thaksin had when he came to power two decades ago. He looks more like a Megawati Sukarno of Indonesia. There is no doubt Anwar is an icon of Malaysian politics. He has the chance to shift the paradigm of politics in Malaysia come 2024, if stability to his administration continues. Alternatively, he may choose to steer the ship along steady seas.

The Malaysian people are still divided with their conclusions on Anwar.

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