On the same day, he told reporters during a visit to a mosque in Kajang, not far from the prison where Najib has begun a 12-year sentence, that he would not remodel his office either, insisting that “every ringgit counts.”
“This is a message to all department leaders to remember that in the current situation we must start a new culture,” he said.
Anwar also said his cabinet would be smaller than previous governments and foreshadowed a cut in ministers’ salaries.
In an interview with The Sydney Morning Herald Y Age Before the November 19 election, Anwar said he intended to “change the political landscape of this country.”
He now has the platform to do so, although the strong election performance of the Islamic Party of Malaysia (PAS), which won more seats than any individual party but is in opposition, will keep him on his toes.
Anwar’s so-called unity government, which includes the long-ruling ousted Barisan Nasional bloc, has yet to prove a majority in parliament.
“The green wave that made the PAS the largest parliamentary party was fueled in part by a bottom-up Malaysian frustration over rising inequality during the pandemic, constrained by mistrust of [Anwar’s] multi-ethnic [coalition] Pakatan Harapan,” said Professor Wong Chin Huat, a political scientist at Sunway University, Malaysia.
“Anwar’s refusal to use the Mercedes S600 and the ministers’ pay cut are the right measures to address ‘relative deprivation’. In this line, the government will aim to make [the] more effective subsidy instead of reducing its overall size.
He said Anwar may need to be “more pragmatic or expedient than principled” because he has had to embrace Barisan and his dominant party, the United Malays National Organization, to make up the numbers in his government.
There has been speculation about what the deal entails between the former enemies, but Wong said he did not expect it to include a free pass for UMNO president Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, who faces 47 corruption charges, or former leader Najib.
“Anwar is too smart and he is not desperate to take that step that will immediately make his government lose public goodwill,” he said.
Get a note directly from our foreigner correspondents about what’s in the headlines around the world. Sign up for the weekly What in the World newsletter here.