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The World This Week
Anwar Ibrahim: Malaysia's new Prime Minister

  Vignesh Ram

TWTW#191, 27 November 2022, Vol. 4, No. 40

Vignesh Ram

Malaysia: Anwar Ibrahim appointed by the King as the Prime Minister

What happened?
On 25 November, Malaysia’s long time opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim was appointed as the 10th Prime Minister of Malaysia. 

As none of the parties have the necessary majority to form the government on their own, King Sultan Abdullah, after consulting with the Pakatan Harapan (to which Anwar Ibrahim belong to), and the Perikatan National (to which the former PM Muhyiddin Yassin come from), decided to announce Anwar as the Prime Minister.

What is the background?
First, the electoral developments. Anwar emerged victorious after severe back-door negotiations with other parties to form the government due to an unclear verdict by voters who went to polls on 19 November 2022. While the Pakatan Harapan (PH) coalition headed by Anwar secured the maximum votes, it fell short of commanding a majority to form the government. The Malaysian monarch suggested the two principal coalitions, PH and the Perikatan Nasional (PN), create a unity government, leading to an impasse as the PN decided to stay out of the arrangement. This situation put the losing Barisan Nasional (BN) in a key position leading it to support Mr Anwar along with Gabungan Parti Sarawak (GPS) based out of Sabah. 

Second, Anwar’s reformist coalition. Anwar Ibrahim and his reformist coalition have been in the fray for power for decades. Mr Anwar, once a protégé of former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohammed, broke ranks with the ruling United Malays National Organization (UMNO) headed   by BN over disagreements with the latter in the late 1990’s. Anwar was jailed on politically motivated charges for nearly a decade. However, notably, mending ways with Mr Mahathir, Anwar finally formed the Pakatan Harapan (PH) coalition before the 2018 polls, leading it to a historic win and defeating the ruling UMNO from power first time since Malaysia’s electoral politics began. However, a series of political defections from within the party, and a betrayal by Mahathir, meant that Mr Anwar lost his chance at the PM position once again, and the PH coalition fell through in 2020. It led to a complex medley of parties, including the BN, PN and several other parties forming a coalition. 

Third, new trends. A discerning trend has been the shifts in voter behaviour within coalitions. For instance, the emergence of Parti Islam Se-Malaysia as the largest party within the PN coalition signifies a shift in voter behaviour when contrasted with the emergence of PH as the largest party. As both mostly carry an opposite political view. This signals a split in the traditional Malay vote bank, which traditionally belonged to the UMNO led by the BN that has lost chiefly steam since 2018.   

What does it mean?
Anwar’s appointment signifies a victory for the reform movement in Malaysia, which is indicated through the return of the mandate to the PH as the largest party. The shifting trends displayed in the recent elections predict a future trajectory of politics that a polarized mandates and a further erosion of established actors popular in Malaysian politics may challenge. 

Also Read: Vignesh Ram, "Malaysia’s recent Elections: More questions than answers," CWA # 848, 22 November 2022.

Also in the news...
Regional round-ups

East and Southeast Asia This Week
China: UN Committee calls for release of Xinjiang detainees, recommends remedies
On 25 November, a United Nations Committee urged China to release people in Xinjiang’s detention centre and recommended providing relief and compensation to affected victims. The statement released by the committee adds pressure on China and calls for the country to implement the recommendations from the UNHRC’s report released by the former Chief Michelle Bachelet. The committee said the lack of improvement in the human rights situation in Xinjiang prompted the recommendations. The committee added that China must perform a complete review of the legal framework regulating national security, counterterrorism and minority rights to ensure compliance with the convention. China’s spokesperson at the diplomatic mission in Geneva, Liu Yuyin, said that the country denies any human rights violations. Liu said that China firmly opposes the UN commission’s decision and accused it of slandering China’s human rights record and basing it on distorted facts provided by the West and other anti-China separatist forces. 

China: IMF recommends boosting vaccination and supporting the property sector 
On 23 November, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) reviewed China’s economic policies and stated virtual meetings with the country’s authorities. Through the statement, the IMF encouraged China to boost their COVID-19 vaccination rates and support its property sector to reduce risks of the economic slowdown. The IMF statement predicted a growth of 3.2 per cent in 2022 and 4.4 per cent in 2023, provided the country lifts the Zero-COVID policy in the second half of 2023. The First Deputy Managing Director, Gita Gopinath said: “Although the zero-Covid-19 strategy has become nimbler over time, the combination of more contagious Covid-19 variants and persistent gaps in vaccinations have led to the need for more frequent lockdowns, weighing on consumption and private investment, including in housing.”

China: Six staff members from Apple Daily plead guilty to foreign collusion
On 22 November, six senior staff members from Hong Kong’s now defunct pro-democracy tabloid, Apple Daily, pleaded guilty to charges of collusion with foreign forces. The maximum sentence these six people, which included four former senior editors and two ex-executives, could get is life in prison. Their arrests were considered a landmark case as the city’s national security law imposed by Beijing in 2020 was used for the first time against news organisations and their staff. They were charged with “conspiracy to collude with foreign forces to endanger national security” and using Apple Daily to spread content that solicited foreign sanctions against China. The six former staffers convicted were chief executive Cheung Kim-hung, associate publisher Chan Pui-man, chief editor Law Wai-kwong, executive editor Lam Man-chung and senior writers Fung Wai-kong and Yeung Ching-kee.

China: QatarEnergy signs a 27-year deal as competition for LNG gets intense
On 21 November, QatarEnergy signed a 27-year deal with China to supply Sinopec with Liquified Natural Gas (LNG). This agreement is the longest LNG deal, so uncertain and highly volatile markets are pushing buyers to look for long-term deals. This uncertain situation and intense competition for LNG has been largely initiated by the Russia-Ukraine war, which began in February. Europe is perhaps the worst hit by the war as it needs a vast amount of LNG to help replace pipeline gas from Russia, which used to comprise about 40 per cent of the continent’s imports. Before signing the deal, QatarEnergy chief Saad al-Kaabi said: “Today is an important milestone for the first sales and purchase agreement (SPA) for North Field East project, it is 4 million tons for 27 years to Sinopec of China.” Kaabi also said this deal was the LNG sector’s biggest single sales and purchase agreement on record.

South Korea: China resumes banned content after six years of suspension 
On 22 November, South Korean officials revealed that China’s streaming site Tencent had resumed distribution of South Korean content within the country after almost six years of suspension. The content had been disallowed due to the growing tension between the countries caused by the THAAD US missile defence system that had been dispatched in South Korea. The availability of the content displays a thawing in the icy relations as President Yoon Suk-yeol met with President Xi Jinping on the sidelines of the G20 in Bali and stressed increasing cultural and people-to-people exchanges between the countries.

The Philippines: Subic Bay witnesses return of US military after 30 years 
On 24 November, the US military returned to Subic Bay, 30 years after relinquishing what was once their largest military base in Asia. The step was mainly due to concerns over China's increasing maritime assertiveness. The US and the Philippines have been negotiating setting up five more locations in Asia under the Enhanced Defence Cooperation Agreement (EDCA). The EDCA will be extended for another ten years as indicated by the US and its renewed interest in establishing new bases in the Philippines and fresh funding for upgrading existing EDCA sites.

The Philippines: Kamala Harris's first official visit focuses on defence agreements and cooperation
On 22 November, Kamala Harris, during her official visit to the Philippines, emphasized that the US has an unwavering commitment to the Philippines and said, " We stand with you in defence of International rules and norms as it relates to the South China Sea." Ferdinand Marcos said, "We do not see a future in the Philippines without including the US." Both the leaders discussed 21 new projects funded by the US in the Philippines, including more defence sites around the locations of EDCA between the two counties.

Pacific Island Countries: China holds dialogue on law enforcement and police cooperation. 
On 22 November, a first minister-level dialogue on law enforcement and police cooperation was held via video between China and some South Pacific countries. The dialogue was chaired by China’s Wang Xiaohang, a member of the Communist Party of China Central Committee Secretariat and Minister of Public Security, and Anthony Veke, minister of police, national security and correctional services of the Solomon Islands. In the beginning of the dialogue, Wang first extended his condolences to the Solomon Islands over the earthquake. Wang went on to express his hope and desire to establish a more friendly cooperative relationship with some of the South Pacific countries and form a more efficient mode of cooperation along with enhancing professional law enforcement capacity through such minister-level dialogue mechanisms. Wang said: “China stands ready to work with other parties to jointly foster this mechanism to create a security environment for the prosperity, stability and development of all countries in the region.” The dialogue was also attended by heads of the police departments of Fiji, Vanuatu, Kiribati, Tonga and Papua New Guinea who also made statements.

North Korea: Security Officers Conference discusses driving out anti-socialistic elements
On 25 November, the state-run Korean Central News Agency reported on the fifth Conference of Security Officers that lasted five days in Pyongyang. The conference had discussions on developing the Worker’s Party and strengthening its security body. The speeches revolved around promoting the Socialist Party and removing anti-socialist and non-socialist activities and thoughts from North Korea. North Korea’s Premier Kim Jong-un did not attend the conference. However, he wrote a letter to the security officers, which was used to rally internal loyalty. 

Australia and New Zealand: Six refugees from Australian detention camps arrive in New Zealand
On 22 November, New Zealand received the first set of refugees arriving from offshore Australian detention camps. In accordance to an agreement between Australia and New Zealand that was agreed on March 2022, 150 refugees would be resettled in New Zealand each year for three years. The refugees from offshore Australian detention camps in Nauru or other places would be screened to meet New Zealand’s Refugee Quota Programme requirements. The first six from Nauru arrived in New Zealand under the agreement.     

New Zealand: Court rules in favour of changing voting age to 16  
On 21 November, New Zealand’s Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern, said that the government would draft a bill to lower the voting age to 16 in the country following the Supreme Court’s ruling on the existing age of 18 being discriminatory and violating young people’s rights. She said: “It is our view that this is an issue best placed to parliament for everyone to have their say.” The two-year case, which came to conclusion on 21 November, enables the future generation to vote on climate change, which would affect them as the time passes. Although many parties in the parliament are for the change, Act Party has been opposing it. The ‘Make It 16’ started with climate change protest in schools across New Zealand, where children were becoming conscious about their environment.    

South Asia This Week 
India: Foreign Secretary visits Myanmar
On 22 November, the Foreign Secretary of India Vinay Kwatra visited Myanmar. He met members of the military junta and discussed border management, infrastructure projects, maritime trade, and human trafficking issues. Both sides discussed the Kaladan port and highway project. He did not meet the members of the National Unity Government.

India: ASEAN Defence Ministers Plus meeting
On 23 November, the Defence Minister of India attended the ASEAN Defence Ministers Plus meeting in Cambodia. He called for a code of conduct in the South China Sea in accordance with the UNCLOS. He said: “We are concerned about complicating actions and incidents that have eroded trust and confidence, and undermined peace and stability in the region... We believe that regional security initiatives must be consultative and development-oriented, to reflect the larger consensus.” He proposed two initiatives in the meeting regarding marine plastic pollution and the role of women in United Nations Peace Keeping (UNPK) operations.

Sri Lanka: The UK donates GBP 880,000 to aid the underprivileged fishing community
On 25 November, The UK, through the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), provided GBP 880,000 (USD 1,043,395) to enhance food and nutrition security for underprivileged fishermen in Sri Lanka. The UK’s High Commissioner to Sri Lanka Sarah Hulton OBE said that the UK noticed that Sri Lanka's fishing sector has been through a very challenging time. The UK is donating this money to address some of the fishermen’s challenges. The UK focuses on improving access to nutritious food and other family essentials. FAO will use UK government donations to support over 5,000 small artisan sea fishermen who are using traditional non-powered boats. Eligible fishermen will receive an unconditional cash transfer of USD 47 per month for three months to aid affected households meet fundamental commitments, including food and subsistence requirements. Sri Lanka’s Fisheries Minister Douglas Devananda appreciated the UK’s help to the fishermen’s community

Sri Lanka: China donates diesel consignment to boost agriculture and fishery
On 25 November, the Embassy of China in Colombo said in a tweet that a total of 9000 metric tonnes (10.6 million litres) of diesel was contributed by China to Sri Lanka. The consignment is scheduled to arrive at Colombo port from Singapore on 26 November. The diesel will be distributed to rural farmers and fishermen of Sri Lanka to improve their economic status. China also donated 5,500 tons of rice and LKR three billion worth of essential medicines to the island nation in emergency humanitarian contributions over the past five months. 
Maldives: Tourism Minister says over 1.6 million tourists will arrive by late December
On 25 November, Maldives’s Tourism Minister Abdulla Mausoom said in a tweet that the government had fixed the tourist arrival goal for 2022 as 1.6 million. Mausoom said that Maldives had crossed 7.5 per cent more than 2019 tourist arrivals by 23 November. Till November, Maldives has opened its gate to 1.4 million tourists. Pre-pandemic, China was the highest visiting country to Maldives, with 16.7 per cent tourists in total. However, after Covid, India stands at the top of the list by 14 per cent, followed by Russia and the UK at 12.3 and 10.9 per cent. The Maldives government claims to be “World’s Leading Destination” at World Tourism Awards for the third time in 2022. 

Pakistan: President approves top military appointment 
On 24 November, President Dr Arif Alvi signed off on the nominations for the next army chief and Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee (CJCSC). The press release said: “The president has promoted Lieutenant General Syed Asim Munir HI (M) to the rank of General with immediate effect and appointed him as Chief of Army Staff with effect from 29th November 2022 and promoted Lieutenant General Sahir Shamshad Mirza HI(M) to the rank of General with immediate effect and appointed him as Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee with effect from 27th November 2022.” Both Generals were given immediate promotions to four-star ranks as Lt General Munir was to retire on 27 November. Additionally, this was the first time in decades that the principle of seniority has been followed in appointing the COAS. 

Pakistan: Islamabad seeks a strategic relationship with Ankara, says PM Shehbaz Sharif
On 25 November, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif met with Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan at the launch ceremony of the third MILGEM Corvette Ships for the Pakistan Navy at the Istanbul Shipyard. In a joint press conference, PM Shehbaz Sharif stated that Pakistan and Turkiye must transform their bilateral ties into a strategic partnership. He also invited President Erdogan to join the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) for regional prosperity. On the launch of the Corvette ship, PNS Khyber, he said that the project was the “manifestation of sincerity, purpose and commitment” to enhance cooperation.

Afghanistan: Taliban’s treatment of women could amount to a crime against humanity, says UN 
On 25 November, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Afghanistan, Richard Bennett and other Uniter Nation experts stated that the Taliban’s targeting of women and girls deepens “flagrant violations of their human rights and freedoms that are already the most draconian globally and may amount to gender persecution — a crime against humanity.” They said, “In recent months, violations of women and girls’ fundamental rights and freedoms in Afghanistan, already the most severe and unacceptable in the world, have sharply increased,” adding, “confining women to their homes is tantamount to imprisonment and is likely leading to increased levels of domestic violence and mental health challenges.”

Central Asia, Middle East and Africa This Week
Armenia: Prime Minister Pashinian criticizes CSTO for not extending support to face “Azerbaijan’s aggression”
On 23 November, Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian criticized the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) for their lack of support to tackle “Azerbaijan’s aggression.” While speaking at the CSTO summit he said that it was “depressing that Armenia’s membership in the CSTO has failed to contain Azerbaijani aggression,” adding that the lack of support was “hugely damaging to the CSTO's image both in our country and abroad.” Meanwhile, several pro-west groups held demonstrations in Yerevan demanding that Armenia leaves the CSTO. In September, Armenia had asked for military assistance from the CSTO, however, the latter responded by only sending its secretary-general and offering to set up a working group to look into the Armenia and Azerbaijan conflict.

Syria: Turkey threatens ground operation 
On 22 November, President Erdogan said that Turkey plans to conduct ground operation in Syria ‘as soon as possible’, targeting Kurdish-led People’s Protection Units (YPG). Turkey considers the YPG as a terrorist organization and its parent organization Kurdistan Worker’s Party (PKK) responsible for Istanbul bombing on 13 November. In his speech he said, “we have been bearing down on terrorists for a few days with our planes, cannons and guns… god willing, we will root out all of them as soon as possible.” Russia opposed the threats and warned against a potential operation. Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov recognized Turkey’s security concerns, but warned against destabilizing actions. 

Iran: Tehran boosts uranium enrichment 
On 22 November, Iran increased its uranium enrichment and use of advanced centrifuges at the Fordow nuclear plant as a response to the new IAEA resolution that calls for inspection in undeclared sites in the country. The enrichment level now stands at 60 percent. In 2021, it had increased the enrichment levels to 60 percent in its Natanz nuclear plant following an attack on the facility that it blames Israel for. 

Iran: UNHRC resolution on Iran crackdown on protests
On 24 November, the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) voted for setting up a fact-finding mission to investigate the human rights abuses in Iran’s crackdown against anti-government protests. Of the 47 members, 25 countries voted in favour and 16 abstained. Armenia, China, Pakistan, Eritrea, Venezuela, and Cuba voted against the resolution. UNHRC chief called on the authorities to “immediately stop using violence and harassment against peaceful protestors and to release all those arrested for peacefully protesting… and a moratorium on the death penalty.” 

Israel: Ben-Gvir to head police division in the new government
On 25 November, PM designate Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud Party signed a coalition deal with the far-right Jewish Power party. Under the agreement which is a process in the formation of the new government, Ben-Gvir will take up the position of the national security minister and therefore will control the Israel Border Police Division in West Bank. Given the right-wing ideology of both Likud and Jewish Power parties, the new government is touted to be one of the most right wing governments in Israel’s history. 

South Africa: President Ramaphosa visits Buckingham palace
On 23 November, King Charles hosted South African President Cyril Ramaphosa as the first state visit of his reign at Buckingham palace. He hailed the cultural and trading links between the UK and South Africa as well as acknowledged the difficult legacy of colonialism. The King said: “We must acknowledge the wrongs which have shaped our past if we are to unlock the power of our common future.” He called for better partnerships which would tackle the “existential threats of climate change and biodiversity loss.” In response, Ramaphosa called for improved trade and investment relations with the UK and South Africa and to help the country in dealing with the power outage issue.

Somalia: President Mohamud launches anti al-Shabaab TV channel
On 24 November, the state media reported that President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud inaugurated a new TV channel named Daljir to counter al-Shabab’s propaganda as the government intensifies its media campaign against the group. In October, the Somali government had banned over 500 social media accounts spreading al-Shabab’s ideologies. The information ministry said that the crackdown on al-Shabaab linked media was part of “an all-out war” against the group which the president declared in August.

Zimbabwe: President opens Chinese-built new parliament
On 16 November, Zimbabwe’s President Emmerson Mnangawa formally opened a new 650-seat parliament in the capital, Harare. Manangagwa used the occasion to deliver a state of the nation address. The state-run Herald newspaper reported that the finance minister will present the 2023 national budget the next day. The project has been funded by China as a gift to Zimbabwe. 

Europe and The Americas This Week
The UK:  Supreme Court rules against Scotland's referendum plea
On 23 November, the UK Supreme Court ruled out the Scotland government’s possibility of holding a referendum on 19 October 2023 without the consent of the UK parliament in Westminster. The court President, Lord Reed, said that the 1999 Scottish devolution law points out that Scotland does not have the power over constitutional changes, including its union with England. Only the UK government holds the power to let Scotland hold an independence referendum. Scotland’s First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, said that she respects the Supreme court’s decision. However, Sturgeon wants to use the 2025 general election to hold a de-facto referendum reflecting the Scottish people’s will for the separation. She wants to hold the democracy movement for Scotland's separation lawfully and constitutionally. Prime Minister Rishi Sunak respected the court ruling. Along with Scotland’s Secretary of State, Alister Jack, Sunak wants both governments to work together in solving the common issues faced by the UK and Scotland. 

The EU: Liberalization of Kosovar visas agreed upon in the EU
On 22 November, in the meeting between visa advisors of the EU member states, the decision to liberalize Kosovo citizens’ visas by 2024 was agreed upon in Brussels. The liberalization idea was put forward by Spain, which remains one of the five countries that does not recognize Kosovo’s sovereignty. France suggested going with the operation of the EITAS system for the visa proposal. The EITAS system allows the digital verification of identification documents and the distribution of electronic visas before being questioned for Schengen Area entry. The Czech Republic, which presides over the European Council, welcomed the proposal to liberalize Kosovar visas. Kosovo met the visa requirements in 2018. However, various circumstances, such as its conflict with Serbia, obstructed the process. 

Nordic States: Finland, Norway and Sweden sign agreement to increase defence cooperation
On 22 November, the Defence Ministers of Finland, Norway and Sweden signed a trilateral defence cooperation agreement. This new trilateral Statement of Intent (SOI) aims to increase defence cooperation between the three countries and boost operations planning in Finland, Sweden and Norway. The SOI supports other agreements between Nordic countries such as the Nordic defence cooperation (NORDEFCO). The agreement outlines four points of cooperation which are, first conducting discussions and exercises based on common security concerns and national requirements. Second, discuss national operations plans between Finland, Norway and Sweden in common areas of concern. Third, undertake common operations planning in areas of mutual interest and fourth hold combined or coordinated military operations.

Francophonie Summit: Switzerland takes the lead in promoting digitization
On 20 November, 30 countries attended the 18th Francophonie Summit in Djerba, Tunisia. The main themes of the summit were digital technology and diversity. Switzerland’s President, Ignazio Cassis, promoted Switzerland’s role in global digital governance and showed his support for the re-election of Louise Mushikiwabo as the Secretary-General of the International Organization of La Francophonie (OIF). Cassis said that the role of new technologies in improving public services and the most disadvantaged’s lives are important for the future. Switzerland has focused on digitalization as one of the main themes of its foreign policy. The summit had panel discussions on “Connectivity in diversity: digital technology as a vector of development and solidarity in the Francophone space” and “Digital technology, a priority instrument for La Francophonie”. Cassis highlighted Switzerland’s digital capabilities in Geneva and how they can play a vital role in digitization among French-speaking countries. The summit also discussed strengthening efforts to have more women and young people as agents of peace and development.

About the Authors
Rashmi Ramesh and Akriti Sharma are PhD Scholars in the School of Conflict and Security Studies at the National Institute of Advanced Studies. Avishka Ashok, Abigail Miriam Fernandes, Apoorva Sudhakar, Joel Jacob and Anu Maria are Research Associates at NIAS. Sethuraman Nadarajan and Farhan Hussain are Research Interns at NIAS.

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