Jakarta. President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo described newly-elected Malaysian Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim as a popular and widely-respected figure in Indonesia as he congratulated him on Friday.
Anwar, in response, returned the favor by thanking Jokowi for becoming the first world leader to congratulate him.
“Congratulations from Indonesia to His Excellency Anwar Ibrahim for becoming the Malaysian prime minister. Datuk Anwar is a very popular and widely respected figure among the Indonesian people,” Jokowi tweeted.
“I hope the relationships of the two neighbors belonging to the same race will get even stronger and more advanced in all areas.”
His tweet repeated the message when he called the new Malaysian leader immediately after the news broke on Thursday to congratulate him in person.
Anwar, 75, posted the video of him receiving Jokowi’s call and turning on the speaker to allow his Twitter followers to hear directly the message from the neighbor.
“Thank you, I consider this an honor because you are the first to call. It shows that we are the true friend of Indonesia,” Anwar replied in the video.
Jokowi can be heard praising Anwar as a very popular and respected figure among the Indonesian people.
“I hope we can strengthen the trade, business, investment, and cultural relationships, God willing, and settle a number of issues such as [Indonesian migrant] workers in an elegant way,” Anwar added.
Anwar, the fourth Malaysian prime minister in four years, ended his decades-long wait for the country’s top job on Thursday after his coalition won the most votes in the parliament although falling short of securing a majority.
He has been known as a charismatic opposition leader in Malaysia for decades, primarily in the 1990s when he led street protests against long-time ruler Mahathir Mohamad.
That was the period when neighboring Indonesia also began the opposition to the longest-serving President Soeharto under the so-called Reformasi movement.
Anwar, who has spent years in prison during Mahathir’s tenure, became an unlikely ally of the man in 2018 in a short-lived coalition to beat incumbent Najib Razak and his Barisan Nasional coalition amid accusations of widespread corruption.