Malaysia’s king named reformist opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim as the country’s prime minister on Thursday.
Sultan Abdullah Sultan Ahmad Shah’s announcement ended days of uncertainties after divisive general elections produced a hung parliament.
Mr Anwar’s Alliance of Hope led Saturday’s election with 82 seats, short of the 112 needed for a majority.
Former PM Muhyiddin Yassin’s right-leaning National Alliance won 73 seats, with its ally Pan-Malaysian Islamic Party emerging as the biggest single party with 49 seats.
Mr Anwar emerged victorious after other smaller blocs agreed to support him for a unity government. His rise to the top will ease anxieties in the multiracial nation over greater Islamisation under Mr Muhyiddin and spark hopes that reforms for better governance will resume.
Many rural Malays, who form two-thirds of Malaysia’s 33 million people, which include large minorities of ethnic Chinese and Indians, fear they may lose their rights with greater pluralism.
This, together with corruption in the United Malays National Organisation (UMNO), has benefited Mr Muhyiddin’s bloc.
The economy and rising cost of living were chief concerns for voters, though many are apathetic due to political turmoil that has led to three prime ministers since 2018 polls.
Anger over government corruption had led to UMNO’s shocking defeat in 2018 to Mr Anwar’s bloc that saw the first regime change since Malaysia’s independence in 1957.
The watershed polls had sparked hopes of reforms as once-powerful UMNO leaders were jailed or hauled to court for graft. But political guile and defections by Mr Muhyiddin’s party led to the government’s collapse after 22 months.
UMNO bounced back as part of a new government with Mr Muhyiddin’s bloc, but infighting led to continuous turmoil.