In an opinion piece for a Singapore outlet, Khairy Jamaluddin scrutinised Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim’s first year as Malaysia’s 10th Prime Minister, acknowledging both achievements and growing concerns
Anwar’s ascent to the country’s top political position a year ago was met with high expectations, rooted in his decades-long political journey, including time in prison and on the opposition benches, Khairy noted in the piece that was published earlier today, 27 November, in Fulcrum.
He highlighted the initial promise Anwar showed, stating, “Anwar revelled in the moment. Easily the most gifted politician of his generation and the foremost orator of any, he set a political course that sought a rupture with legacies of the past, introducing a new era of integrity, compassion, and innovation.”
Khairy noted that while the Pakatan Harapan (PH) chairperson was successfully able to form a unity government and bring about rare political stability after years of turbulence, it’s no longer enough.
“A year into his premiership, there are signs that people are starting to tire of the virtuoso,” the former health minister said, citing economic challenges and a perceived disconnect between promises and reality.
Khairy emphasised that Anwar’s predicament involves inherited and imposed challenges, including fiscal constraints, China’s economic slowdown, and aggressive US Federal Reserve interest rate hikes
He cautioned that while external pressures play a role, Anwar’s appeal may be waning due to deflated expectations and challenges in fulfilling populist promises made during his time in opposition.
Khairy also placed significant emphasis on recent criticisms, including a rare rebuke from the Crown Prince of Johor, underscoring growing dissatisfaction with Anwar’s Cabinet which has largely been lacklustre.
“Recently, the Crown Prince of Johor issued a rare rebuke of Anwar, calling on the premier and his team to do more for the betterment of the people […] Initially, the prime minister was given a wide berth to accommodate nominees from across his disparate partners in the unity government. One year of underperformance, however, has forced him to admit he needs to shuffle the deck,” he wrote.
Furthermore, Khairy criticised Anwar, who also holds the Finance portfolio, for allegedly pandering to Muslim conservatives, stating, “The problem with Anwar might be Anwar himself”
According to the former UMNO leader, Anwar has been so engrossed in his performative premiership that “he has forgotten why at least half the country waited half a lifetime for his ascension”.
Khairy also highlights the impact of the six state elections in August this year, where Anwar faced setbacks with the opposition coalition dominated by PAS making significant inroads, with the Prime Minister spending much of his capital pandering to Muslim conservatives and backpedalling on promised reforms.
“Despite Anwar’s own demands while in opposition, the Prime Minister has not given equal constituency funding to members of parliament in the opposition. And his coalition’s key promise of separating the roles of Prime Minister and Finance Minister to ensure accountability remains unfulfilled as Anwar continues to hold both positions,” he noted.
Urging Anwar to stop attempting to be more Islamic than PAS, Khairy suggested him to address key issues such as Cabinet reshuffling
He asked Anwar to secure the support of the Malay community without compromising on promised reforms.
“He must quickly arrest the drift and course correct by dropping deadwood in Cabinet, appointing a technically competent second minister of finance to drive tough reforms, focusing on the minutiae of implementation and winning the support of the majority Malay community without trying to be more Islamic than PAS.
“In short, Malaysia needs less performative leadership, more substantive performance. If he fails, not only will the applause be muted, but there will be no encore,” Khairy noted.