Anwar casts unity net wider to smother lingering uncertainty

5 days ago 31

KUALA LUMPUR – As the mercury rises in Malaysian politics, Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim has set about recruiting former foes as he seeks to widen alliances in the face of unrelenting pressure from the opposition to undermine his leadership.

Having already allowed crucial ally and Deputy Prime Minister Zahid Hamidi to appoint Umno loyalists in key government agencies this past week, he surprisingly handed the chair of the government’s premier think-tank on Tuesday to a top adviser of ex-senior minister Azmin Ali. The latter was a key defector in the 2020 Sheraton Move which blocked Mr Anwar from succeeding then Premier Mahathir Mohamad.

Dr Faiz Abdullah has been made chief of the Institute of Strategic and International Studies Malaysia (ISIS Malaysia), in a coup for Mr Anwar.

His government is also set to bestow a senatorship on Datuk Seri Anifah Aman next week, despite Mr Anwar filing and losing at a cost of RM100,000 (S$30,000) a defamation suit against the then foreign minister in 2015. Mr Anifah said in 2009 that Mr Anwar had tried to bribe MPs to support him to become prime minister the year before.

Mr Anifah, a veteran of Sabah politics, confirmed his appointment to Parliament’s upper house when contacted by The Straits Times.

It remains to be seen if this is merely a reward or a mutually beneficial boon after Mr Anifah, the former Umno warlord, campaigned for Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) president Anwar at November’s general election when the latter’s Pakatan Harapan (PH) coalition was locked in a fierce battle with the Umno-led Barisan Nasional.

The polls threw up a hung Parliament and even though parties in government now make up a two-thirds supermajority in Parliament, PH has just 82 of the 222 seats in the lower house.

Mr Anifah’s continued support could go some way to shoring up the Anwar administration’s stability as Sabah has been the shakiest state controlled by the parties in the federal government.

Meanwhile, the success in bringing Dr Faiz into ISIS Malaysia is seen as a coup for the Prime Minister as he was among a clutch of former Anwar aides who took Datuk Seri Azmin’s side when the then top two PKR leaders split in 2013.

Dr Faiz had been a key member of Mr Azmin’s inner circle and brains trust both while the latter was economic minister in the 2018 Mahathir administration, and after Mr Azmin defected to Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia to become senior minister of internat...

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