Anwar’s tortuous road to power in Malaysia

Anwar Ibrahim finally realised his over-two-decade dream of becoming Malaysia’s prime minister on Thursday following a tortuous detour in the political wilderness that included two prison stints.

So long the runner-up of Malaysian politics, this weekend’s election was his final chance at securing the top job.

AFP takes a look at the key milestones in Anwar’s long and tumultuous journey to the premiership.

  • August 1947 – Anwar is born to a middle-class family in Cherok Tok Kun in the northern Malaysian state of Penang.
  • December 1974 – Anwar, a firebrand Islamic youth leader, is arrested during a student protest in support of rural farmers. He spends 20 months in jail.
  • 1982 – Anwar is admitted into the dominant United Malays National Organisation (UMNO) political party after Mahathir Mohamad becomes UMNO president and Malaysian prime minister.
  • March 1991 – Anwar becomes finance minister after rising through the ranks. Two years later Mahathir names Anwar as his deputy prime minister after he helps UMNO win crucial rural Malay votes.
  • September 2, 1998 – Mahathir sacks Anwar on charges of sexual misconduct after a public falling out on how to handle the Asian financial crisis. Anwar later says he has been the victim of a conspiracy at the highest level.
  • September 20, 1998 – Anwar leads tens of thousands in a protest march in Kuala Lumpur but is arrested hours later at his home. A week later he appears in court with a black eye and pleads innocent to charges of corruption and sodomy. He says he was beaten up by the national police chief.
  • April 1999 – Anwar is sentenced to six years in prison for corruption, triggering street protests and drawing international condemnation. The following year he is found guilty of sodomy and sentenced to nine years in prison.
  • September 2004 – The Federal Court, Malaysia’s highest tribunal, acquits Anwar of the sodomy charges and he is freed.
  • February 2010 – Anwar is tried for a second time on another sodomy charge. He denies the accusations and claims persecution.
  • January 2012 – The High Court acquits Anwar of the second sodomy charge, but prosecutors appeal.
  • May 2013 – Anwar leads Malaysia’s opposition to its best-ever performance in general elections but fails to muster the numbers to become prime minister.
  • 2014-2015 – The Court of Appeal overturns Anwar’s 2012 sodomy acquittal but he remains free pending an appeal before the Federal Court, which he loses a year later. He starts serving a five-year jail term but remains active as an opposition leader while in prison.
  • 2015-2017 – Political activism blog Sarawak Report and The Wall Street Journal report that nearly $700 million believed to be from a state investment fund has been deposited into Najib’s personal account. The scandal widens and global probes are launched, prompting calls for Najib to resign. The scandal hammers the country’s international reputation.
  • 2018 – Mahathir comes out of retirement and teams up with the still-jailed Anwar to form an opposition alliance. Their coalition scores an upset victory in a general election and Mahathir becomes prime minister for the second time with an agreement to hand over the premiership to Anwar later. The king pardons Anwar, who is freed from jail. But Mahathir would fail to fulfill his handover pledge.
  • February 2020 – Mahathir resigns after the coalition with Anwar collapses due to infighting, leaving Anwar empty-handed again.
  • November 2022 – In snap elections Anwar’s Pakatan Harapan (Alliance of Hope) coalition wins the most number of seats, but falls short of the required majority. A political stalemate follows as his rival also claims to have the numbers. The king intervenes to break the impasse by calling for a unity government. Anwar is appointed Malaysia’s 10th prime minister.