Timeline: Is it finally time for Malaysia’s Anwar Ibrahim?

Anwar Ibrahim rose to deputy prime minister before he was sacked in 1998 and re-emerged as a figurehead for reform.

Malaysia''s opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim speaks to the media ahead of the verdict in his final appeal against a conviction for sodomy in Kuala Lumpur
Anwar has been in politics since emerging as a fiery student activist in the 1970s [File: Olivia Harris/Reuters]

Malaysian opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim says he has enough support in parliament to form a government and become the country’s prime minister.

Anwar, a former finance minister and deputy prime minister who spent almost 10 years in jail after falling from power in the late 1990s, met Malaysia’s king on Tuesday for an hour.

He told a news conference afterwards that he had the support of more than 120 lawmakers in the 222-strong parliament.

The announcement comes amid a turbulent year for Malaysia, which saw the Pakatan Harapan coalition that won an historic election in May 2018 collapse in February after some disgruntled members joined forces with the opposition.

Anwar, who was Malaysia’s prime minister-in-waiting for a second time, accused the then party of then-Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad and “traitors” in his own camp of planning to bring down the government.

Anwar has been in politics since emerging as a fiery student activist in the 1970s and his alliance turned rivalry with Mahathir has dominated Malaysian politics for years.

Mahathir - Anwar
The rivalry between Mahathir Mohamad and Anwar Ibrahim has dominated Malaysian politics for decades [File: Krish Balakrishnan/Department of Information via AFP]

Here are some key dates:

August 10, 1947 – Anwar Ibrahim is born in Bukit Mertajam, Penang. Both his parents are UMNO politicians.

1971 – Anwar founds the Muslim Youth Movement of Malaysia, known by its Malay acronym ABIM.

1982 – Having been convinced to join UMNO, Anwar is elected to parliament for the first time, representing the constituency of Permatang Pauh in his home state of Penang.

1983 – Anwar becomes minister of youth and sports, and under Mahathir’s tutelage is promoted first to education minister (1986), and then to minister of finance (1991) and deputy prime minister (1993).

1998 – Months of feuding with Mahathir over Malaysia’s handling of the Asian financial crisis culminates in Anwar being sacked and accused of sodomy – a crime in Malaysia – and corruption. Tens of thousands take to the streets in support of Anwar who secures support from large numbers of Malay Muslims, the largest ethnic group in the multicultural country, to drive his Reformasi movement.

1999 – Anwar builds on the momentum for reform to found the Parti Keadilan Nasional or National Justice Party (KEADILAN) a forerunner of Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR), or the People’s Justice Party. Separately, Anwar is convicted and jailed on charges he maintains were politically motivated.

2003 – Mahathir steps down after 22 years as prime minister.

2004-13 – Four years after his 2004 release, Anwar is again accused of sodomy by a male aide. Anwar says the accusations are aimed at removing him from his post as leader of the opposition, which came close to defeating Najib Razak – another Mahathir protege – in the disputed 2013 election.

2015 – Anwar is jailed for sodomy for a second time.

2016-17 – Mahathir quits UMNO amid calls for Najib to resign over a multibillion-dollar corruption scandal at state fund 1MDB. Mahathir forms a new party, Bersatu, before joining forces with Anwar’s opposition coalition, Pakatan Harapan (PH). He promises to seek a royal pardon for Anwar and hand him the premiership if the coalition succeeds in its bid to remove Najib and the UMNO-led government.

2018 – Anwar and Mahathir join forces to lead the opposition to an unprecedented victory in the election on May 9, ending more than 60 years of UMNO rule. Within a week, Anwar is pardoned and released.

2019 – Anwar denies accusations of having sexually assaulted a former male aide, describing the claims as “politics at its worst”. The case is dropped on grounds of insufficient evidence.

2020 – Mahathir faces pressure from Anwar’s allies in the coalition to set a date for the handover of power, sources said. Senior politicians from Pakatan and the losing opposition parties meet at a five-star hotel on February 23 in what becomes known as the “Sheraton move”. Anwar blames “our former friends” in Mahathir’s Bersatu and “a small faction of traitors” from his own party.

February 24 – Mahathir resigns as prime minister.

March 1 – The king appoints Muhyiddin Yassin as prime minister after meeting every member of parliament to canvas levels of support.

September 23 – Anwar says he has enough support in parliament to become prime minister and urges Muhyiddin to resign.

October 13 – Anwar meets the king and says he has shared evidence of his support with the monarch. He says he has a “formidable” majority and that Muhyiddin should step down.