Malaysian opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim has been appointed prime minister and will be sworn in by the king at 5 p.m. local time, the country’s palace announced on Thursday.
A parliamentary election on Saturday ended with an unprecedented hung parliament with neither of the two main alliancesone led by Anwar and the other former prime minister Muhyiddin Yassin, who immediately secured enough seats in parliament to form a government.
Anwar’s appointment caps a three-decade journey from heir to a prisoner convicted of sodomy to longtime opposition leader.
The 75-year-old has been denied the premiership time and again, despite coming within striking distance several times over the years: He was deputy prime minister in the 1990s and the official prime minister-to-be in 2018.
In between, he spent nearly a decade in prison for sodomy and corruption in what he says were politically motivated charges aimed at ending his career.
With 82 parliamentary seats, Anwar’s Pakatan Harapan, or Alliance of Hope, came out on top in Saturday’s election, but fell short of the 112 seats needed for a majority. Former Prime Minister Muhyiddin’s Malay-centric Perikatan Nasional, or National Alliance, won 73 seats.
The alliance led by the United Malays National Organization, which has 30 seats, held the balance of power.
Umno secretary-general Ahmad Maslan said on Thursday that the party’s highest decision-making body had decided to support a unity government not led by Muhyiddin’s camp and that the party will accept any unity government or any other form of government decided by the king.
With the support of all 30 lawmakers in the Umno alliance, Anwar was able to secure a majority.
King Sultan Abdullah Sultan Ahmad Shah met with royal families from nine states on Thursday to hear them about the impasse. Malaysia’s hereditary rulers, who rotate to be the country’s king every five years under a unique rotation system, are highly regarded by the country’s Malay majority as guardians of Islam and Malay tradition.
Anwar’s reformist alliance won the 2018 election that led to the first regime change since Malaysia’s independence from Britain in 1957. But the government collapsed after Muhyiddin defected and joined Umno to form a new government. Muhyiddin’s government was plagued by internal rivalries and he resigned after 17 months. Umno leader Ismail Sabri Yaakob was then chosen by the king as prime minister.
Reuters and the Associated Press contributed to this report