Anwar Ibrahim: No-Holds-Barred Analysis

With the euphoria of winning finally come to an end, Anwar's next leg of his journey will not be easy.

By Steve Hagger – Head of Credit Suisse, Malaysia.

Anwar Ibrahim has been sworn in as Malaysia’s 10th PM. He will now form a government in coalition with UMNO’s BN & the Sarawakians, giving him a comfortable majority. His choice of cabinet should indicate the nature of his administration. In the meantime, here is a SWOT analysis on PM Anwar:

▪️ Charming, eloquent in both English & Bahasa, qualities critical for healing a divided nation & engaging the world.
▪️ Islamic credentials to counter the threat posed by PAS & extreme religious ideology.
▪️ Intelligent & educated. He will understand the need for educational reform, even though he was the architect of its decline.
▪️ Anwar is driven by power, not money. He will relish the international platform that being PM provides.
▪️ He is not racist, crucial if you are to unite the nation & halt the capital flight, recently triggered by fears of PAS extremists.
▪️ He has some good MPs in his coalition with which he can populate his cabinet. The dodgy ones have jumped & lost their seats.
▪️ He is pragmatic, realizing the economic & social importance of the sin sector.
▪️ He is clean relative to his predecessors. While his fellow MPs are clean, not all his friends are.

▪️ He is not a ‘do-er’. He is happiest giving eloquent speeches. He has barely done ‘a day’s work’ ie always been in politics.
▪️ Poor judge of character. Some of his friends are at the dodgy end of the spectrum, including a well-known con man.
▪️ While he was once Finance Minister, this is not an area of strength.
▪️ Poor social media skills, possibly explained by a decade in prison. He needs to hire Kiki, Najib’s cat.
▪️ Out of touch with the Malaysian people. He is most comfortable talking about Palestine or literature.
▪️ Relatively old at 75. Hopefully he will empower his deputy, Rafizi, who was the brains behind the election campaign.
▪️ His international network is likely somewhat dated. His BFF is Turkey’s Tayyip Erdogan.
Trust deficit. Due to his chameleonic qualities. Who is the real Anwar?

▪️ National reconciliation is absolutely essential after such a bruising, divisive election.
▪️ Religious educational reform is critical to ensure that hate is eradicated. Anwar has the Islamic credentials.
▪️ Education reform is a political hot potato, but absolutely critical.
▪️ He will be adored by the West. He can play a role on the international stage as a credible moderate Islamic leader.
▪️ To pick a small capable cabinet. He has plenty of proven ministers & capable MPs to choose from.
▪️ UMNO must reform, if it is to become a credible Malay alternative to PAS. Being part of honest government should help.
▪️ Win over the civil service, who may have become increasingly disengaged.
▪️ A coalition government can ‘get away’ with implementing tough medicine, like GST & subsidy reform.
▪️ Low expectations following the disappointment of the last PH government & the near miss of a PAS government.
▪️ Empowering an independent judiciary & judicial reform. Anwar spent 10 years in jail as a result of a rotten judiciary.
▪️ Appoint UMNO’s KJ to the cabinet as a Senator. He is one of the most experienced & capable politicians out there & key to UMNO’s future.

▪️ Vote in parliament could at any point destabilise a coalition government.
▪️ Economic headwinds will need to be dealt with ASAP.
▪️ He has had ~25 years to dream of what he might do as PM, with a credible manifesto. Will he deliver good policy?
▪️ The largely rural population feels threatened by Anwar, possibly due to his multi-racial approach to politics.
▪️ Forced to have a large, low quality cabinet, despite promising a much smaller cabinet. Will his hands be tied?
▪️ Those pursuing racial & religious supremacy will not give up. We do not know what secret deals have been done. They may embarrass. Pre-election promises broken.
Many within UMNO will be upset at having to play second fiddle in a government that will try to be clean.


Anwar has been involved in politics all his life.

His early years were as an political & Islamic rebel, inspired by the Iranian revolution.

His first jailing was in the 1970s. Dr M, recognizing both his talent & the threat that he posed, brought him into the UMNO fold.

On their watch, English was removed from the educational curriculum & religion was introduced into schools & government, arguably seeding today’s racial divide.

It was during the Asian Financial Crisis that Anwar fell out with Dr M. This was partly due to differing economic ideologies, but also due to Anwar’s impatience to be PM.

This was the catalyst for the ‘Reformasi’ movement, which eventually brought & end to single party politics.

He was thrown in jail for the 2nd time in 1999, by Dr M. He was released by PM Badawi in 2004, in a deal possibly brokered by KJ.

He was imprisoned for a 3rd time in 2015, by PM Najib, only to be released by Dr M, following the 2018 GE14, with a deal that he would take over as PM. That deal was not honoured.

Fast forward to the present day. Dr M just lost his deposit, Najib is in jail & Anwar is PM. Who would have thought?


Malaysia has stepped back from the abyss of an Islamic, mono-ethnic government.

Anwar finally has the opportunity that he has craved for ~20+ years, that is to arrest Malaysia’s decline, with a reform agenda.

My greatest concern is his ability to DELIVER. He is not a ‘do-er’ & his judgement is sometimes lacking.

He is however a significant upgrade on his predecessors & way better than the alternative.

Destination Zimbabwe has been averted & Malaysia has achieved its second democratic, peaceful change of government. Long may it last.

(All in my views.)

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