Wan Azizah, The Woman Changing Malaysia’s Politics
The Internet is abuzz with news about Malaysia’s recent elections. One of the stars of the hard-fought battle at the ballot box is Dr Wan Azizah, a veteran politician from the Opposition.
After winning a parliamentary seat in Pandan, Selangor as the president of Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR), she is set to be Malaysia’s Deputy Prime Minister.
This is big news for Malaysia, as this is the highest position a female has ever held in political office.
We take a look at Dr Wan Azizah’s colourful life with 10 facts about the 65-year-old.
1. She was born in Singapore, but grew up in Malaysia
In 1999, a Malaysian minister claimed that Dr Wan grew up and received her education in Singapore.
However, this is only partially true.
While Dr Wan was born in Singapore in 1952, she was brought up in Malaysia.
She attended St. Nicholas Convent in Alor Setar for her early education, continuing on to Tunku Kurshiah College, Seremban, for her secondary education.
2. First woman to hold such a high position in office
Dr Wan serves as the president of PKR, now part of Malaysia’s ruling coalition.
While she has held this position and others for more than a decade, this is the first election campaign that she is leading since 2004.
Dr Wan’s campaigns appear to be highly successful with women from the Muslim majority, thanks to her stance on certain matters.
See her words on corruption, for instance:
I feel and believe corruption is a cancer, dangerous and pervasive, and you need a surgeon’s touch. I happen to be a woman and I happen to be a surgeon, I think that helps very much.
Appealing to women has aided her campaign, she is set to be the first woman in Malaysia’s history to be appointed as deputy prime minister.
3. Her goal is to aid her husband’s political career
Dr Wan and her husband, Mr Anwar Ibrahim have had a complicated political journey.
Mr Anwar is currently serving a 5-year jail sentence for sodomy.
His conviction prevents him from running for office for 5 years unless he is pardoned by the Malaysian King, which media reports suggest will happen.
While that may be so, Dr Wan is operating as Anwar’s placeholder, by becoming deputy prime minister.
Dr Mahathir, Malaysia’s new PM, has agreed to this, and when Anwar is released from prison on 8 Jun 2018, he will receive a royal pardon.
When that happens, Anwar will be able to contest Dr Wan’s seat and return to politics, which has been her plan all along.
4. She used to be a doctor
Before turning to politics, Dr Wan practised medicine.
After graduating from college in Seremban, she attended the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland.
While there, she was awarded with a gold medal in obstetrics and gynaecology.
She eventually turned to ophthalmology, which she specialised in.
Dr Wan practised medicine for 14 years, only quitting when her husband became deputy prime minister.
5. A family-oriented leader
Dr Wan is incredibly family-oriented, ensuring that despite her busy schedule, she never neglects her family.
The 6 children, 9 grandchildren and her parents… Dr Wan makes sure she is there for them whenever they need her.
Dr Wan and her family have a bonding session at least once a week, where they catch up over the hearty meals that she prepares.
She is also incredibly patient with her grandchildren, using her understanding of psychology to help calm them down when they’re having tantrums.
Her daughter, Nurul, speaks very highly of her:
She has a great sense of humour and she always makes us laugh. She could have her own stand up comedy show.
Aww, we’re not crying, you are.
6. Second female in Malaysia’s history to lead a political party
Prior to Dr Wan’s political rise, there was only one other woman in Malaysia’s history to lead a political party.
A Ms Ganga Nayar became the first president of the Malaysian Workers’ Party, in 1987.
After her husband was appointed deputy prime minister in 1993, Dr Wan decided to pursue more voluntary work.
This led her to become a patron of Majlis Kanser Nasional (National Cancer Council).
Through this, she was ultimately propelled towards a political career, and she became the president of PKR in 1999.
7. Her loyalty is unwavering
As previously mentioned, her husband Anwar is currently serving a 5-year jail sentence for allegedly sodomising his former political aide.
However, this is not the first time he has been convicted of such an offence.
Back in 1999, he was charged with corruption and sodomy, which many believe to be a politically motivated move to remove him from power.
Despite the charges against him, Dr Wan has stood by his side without question.
8. She never wanted a political career
Back in the 90s, Dr Wan was content with her role as an ophthalmologist, as well as her preoccupation with her volunteer work.
All of that changed when her husband was arrested at their family home on Sept 20, 1998.
When Anwar was arrested, there were numerous protests in Kuala Lumpur as his supporters believed that he was a victim of political persecution.
This led Dr Wan to step into action, forming an opposition party to continue in her husband’s footsteps.
9. She’s really active on Instagram
Apart from her political ambitions, Dr Wan spends a lot of time on Instagram, updating her followers on what she’s up to when she’s not busy with work.
She shares all kinds of things with her followers, ranging from what she’s cooking to motivational quotes.
Her Instagram gives a glimpse into her personal life, which politicians usually shy away from doing.
10. She has a great relationship with her constituents
Considering all the aforementioned facts, it’s no surprise that Dr Wan has a positive relationship with her constituents.
She shows compassion to her supporters and always go the extra mile to show them that she really cares about them.
In this post, she’s flashing a light into someone’s eye.
Although it seems kinda odd, she’s checking his eyesight.
We don’t really have much backstory besides that, but we think it’s really cute that even though she’s no longer a practicing ophthalmologist, she’s’ still willing to put her experience as a doctor to good use.
Who knows what the future will hold
As it’s unclear what the future will hold for Dr Wan when Anwar is released, we’re sure she’ll continue to make waves.
We wish the incoming government of Malaysia all the best in their new term.
Featured image from Wan Azizah’s Instagram.