Who Is Anwar Ibrahim? Here Are 8 Facts About Malaysia's 10th Prime Minister

From being imprisoned for almost a decade to being named one of the world's most influential individuals, Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim has come a tremendously long way to get to where he is today.

Cover image via Ilham Books , China Daily , Reformasi Perjuangan Diteruskan Book via Malaysiakini , Vincent Thian/AP via New Straits Times

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Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim has officially been sworn in as Malaysia's 10th Prime Minister today, 24 November, after five days of a political standstill since the national polling day on 19 November

The Pakatan Harapan (PH) chairman has come a tremendously long way to finally being appointed to the country's top post, given his 40-year-long political career and two lengthy stints in prison, of which he and his supporters claim were politically-motivated convictions.

To welcome Malaysia's new Prime Minister, here are eight facts about him that you must know:

1. He's a Penang-born reformist, who is from a family of politicians

Anwar (left) and his father, Datuk Ibrahim Abdul Rahman.

Image via Lowyat Forum

Anwar was born in Cherok Tok Kun, Bukit Mertajam, Penang, on 10 August 1947.

His father, Datuk Ibrahim Abdul Rahman, had a huge influence on him. Ibrahim served as the Central Seberang Perai member of parliament (MP) from 1959 to 1969 and parliamentary secretary to the Ministry of Health.

When his father passed away in April 2015, Anwar was serving his second stint in prison, but was later allowed to attend his father's funeral.

The Star reported that Anwar was also in prison when his mother, Che Yan Hamid Hussin, passed away in 2001. She was once an orator of the UMNO Women's Movement. As a child, he was often taken to women's movement lectures.

He received his early education in SK Cherok Tok Kun and SK Stowell, before studying at Maktab Melayu Kuala Kangsar (MCKK) between 1960 and 1966, which was one of the most esteemed secondary schools at the time.

Anwar then furthered his studies at Universiti Malaya (UM) in Malay studies (literature).

2. He's an activist since his university days

Anwar dabbled in politics during his time at UM. He founded Angkatan Belia Islam Malaysia (ABIM, or Malaysian Islamic Youth Movement) with other activists in 1971 and became its president in 1974.

He held that position for almost eight years, including over 20 months of detention between January 1975 and November 1976. He was detained under the draconian Internal Security Act (ISA) 1960 for being a "threat to national security" following the 1974 student demonstrations in Baling, Kedah.

While studying in UM, he was also a leader of the National Union of Muslim Students of Malaysia and the Malay Language Society of the university.

3. He rose quickly in ranks after joining UMNO in 1982

Image via China Daily

Anwar left ABIM and joined UMNO in 1982.

He swiftly and steadily rose in UMNO and held different portfolios in then-prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad's various Cabinets. He was known among his peers as Mahathir's 'anointed successor' after UMNO elected him its deputy president in 1993 and 1996.

Below is his political journey during his years in UMNO:
1982: Won the Permatang Pauh parliamentary seat at 35 years old and appointed as deputy minister in the Prime Minister's Department. Defeated Suheimi Kamaruddin to become UMNO Youth leader in the same year.
1983-1985: Culture, youth, and sports minister.
1985-1986: Agriculture minister
1986-1990: Education minister
1987: Received the highest number of nominations for the deputy president post in UMNO and won unchallenged.
1990: Retained the post of UMNO deputy president.
1991-1998: Finance minister

4. He served his first stint of imprisonment over corruption and sodomy convictions

On 2 September 1998, Anwar was dismissed from all official posts, and expelled from UMNO the next day.

He was arrested on 20 September that year. His first conviction was for corruption.

Later, he was convicted of sodomy. He was found guilty of sodomising Azizan Abu Bakar, the driver for Anwar's wife, on one night between January and March 1993. The court was told that Anwar sodomised Azizan 15 times in luxury hotels and condominiums.

He was handed a combined jail sentence of 15 years for both cases. But in 2004, he won his appeal against the sodomy conviction. He served about four years in prison.

5. He travelled around the world to serve as an educator while waiting for his political suspension period to end

Image via TIME

After he was released from prison in 2004, he had to wait until 14 April 2008 before he could contest in an election again.

While waiting, he was invited to hold teaching positions at several leading universities in the world, including St Antony's College, one of the constituent colleges of the University of Oxford, UK, and Johns Hopkins University in Washington, US.

In 2005, he was a professor teaching Islam in Southeast Asia at the Alwaleed Bin Talal Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding at the Edmund A Walsh School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University.

Anwar was known by many around the world during this period due to his imprisonment. Many international media reported his claim that his imprisonment was politically motivated.

In 2008, he was named among the 100 most influential individuals in the world by TIME Magazine.

6. He built Pakatan Rakyat to become a political juggernaut that Barisan Nasional (BN) could not ignore

Image via New Mandala

In 2008, Anwar intended to contest the 12th General Election (GE12), but the parliament was dissolved earlier than expected, and the polling day was set on 8 March, a month before his political suspension would end.

Despite that, Pakatan Rakyat, the predecessor of Pakatan Harapan (PH) today, managed to capture three states under its control, namely Selangor, Penang, and Kelantan. At the time, PAS was a component party of Pakatan Rakyat.

In the next election (GE13), Pakatan Rakyat won the popular vote of 50.87%, but could only capture 40% of parliamentary seats. In 2015, Pakatan Rakyat was succeeded by PH.

By 2018, PH successfully dethroned BN in GE14 and formed the federal government.

Anwar contested a parliamentary seat in the Permatang Pauh by-election in 2008, and defended the seat in GE13. He served as the Opposition leader for two electoral terms.

7. He served his second stint in prison over a sodomy conviction

In 2014, history repeated itself again when Anwar was charged with sodomy.

He was said to have sodomised Mohd Saiful Bukhari Azlan, his political aide, at a condominium in Bukit Damansara on 26 June 2008. The trial opened in February 2010 and by January 2012, the High Court acquitted and discharged Anwar.

The prosecution then filed an appeal over the acquittal at the Court of Appeal and Anwar was sentenced to five years in jail, reported The Straits Times. He received a royal pardon shortly after PH won GE14.

In total, Anwar served about 10 years in prison and a detention camp.

8. He returned to politics as a prime minister-in-waiting before seeing his dream crushed

After he was freed, he contested a parliamentary seat in the Port Dickson by-election on 13 October 2018. He won the seat and became the prime minister-in-waiting, as then-premier Mahathir had promised to hand the reigns to the former on an unspecified date.

But Mahathir's administration fell when he suddenly resigned on 24 February 2020 amidst political maneuvering, known today as the 'Sheraton Move'.

Throughout the pandemic, Anwar served as the Opposition leader and attempted to topple Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin's administration several times, claiming that he had enough support from MPs to back him as the prime minister.

Anwar had also attempted to topple Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi's administration in 2008.

Throughout his 40-year political career, Anwar was known to be the 'almost-man'. But today, he was officially sworn in as Malaysia's Prime Minister, achieving his decades-long goal to lead and reform the country.

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Anwar was sworn in as the 10th Prime Minister at 5pm today: