Geopolitics

A Malaysian Benazir Bhutto? Nurul Izzah Follows Famous Father Into Politics

Nurul Izzah Anwar
Nurul Izzah Anwar
Bruno Philip
KUALA LUMPUR - The father, Anwar Ibrahim failed: the opposition coalition he's been leading lost this month's national elections. By all accounts, he will never be Prime Minister. The daughter, Nurul Izzah Anwar, was instead reelected comfortably to her seat as Member of Parliament in the May 5 legislative ballot.
Time is on her side, and Nurul, at 32, intends to take full advantage of it.
On election day, before the bad news of the coalition's defeat came out -- the Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition, in power for more than half a century, won by a narrow margin -- Nurul was visiting polling stations by car and with her family, in her local Kuala Lumpur district of Lembah Pantai.
In the front seat was her husband, Shahrir, also 32, who works in finance. In the back, the two younger sisters of Nurul, the eldest of a family of six. "We all are children of chance," says the young woman, to justify her political path. In 1998, her father, Anwar, who was then the Deputy Prime Minister and heir apparent to the chief of government Mahatir Mohammad, was dismissed, arrested and condemned for corruption and eventually for alleged sodomy against one of his former assistants.
"I was only 19," remembers Nurul, "I didn't hear the calling of politics at all. I was studying electronic engineering. But I began to feel such an injustice, the certainty that my father was innocent, so I started working for his defense."
Anwar Ibrahim, 65, now the head of the Pakatan Rakyat, a coalition of three opposition parties, was released in 2004, after six years behind bars.
Pious Muslim, tireless campaigner
Nurul's personality conveys charm and human warmth. Her smile, reproduced everywhere in the neighborhood by the electoral campaign posters, is magnetic. Wearing a pale mauve Islamic veil and a matching flowered tunic with high-heeled black shoes, she is a pious Muslim woman who nevertheless is convinced that religion is a personal matter. In the streets, she tirelessly shakes hands, and poses for pictures with electors who adore her.
"I'm a rather reserved person," she adds to explain her former reluctance to join the race for Parliament. "In 2008, I ran for the first time. I was surprised to win!"
Could young Nurul become Malaysia's "Benazir Bhutto"? There are indeed similarities. Pakistan's former Prime Minister had been a teenager when her father, Zulficar, the then-Prime Minister, was overthrown by a military coup and hanged two years later, in 1979.
Nurul sighs at this comparison: "My father didn't push me to enter politics. My mother was opposed to it..."
Does she intend to become Prime Minister one day? Frowning, she answers: "I am already a Member of Parliament. If you are a teacher, do you want to become the headmaster?"
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Future

How Facebook's Metaverse Could Undermine Europe's Tech Industry

Mark Zuckerberg boasted that his U.S. tech giant will begin a hiring spree in Europe to build his massive "Metaverse." Touted as an opportunity for Europe, the plans could poach precious tech talent from European tech companies.

Carl-Johan Karlsson

PARIS — Facebook's decision to recruit 10,000 people across the European Union might be branded as a vote of confidence in the strength of Europe's tech industry. But some European companies, which are already struggling to fill highly-skilled roles such as software developers and data scientists, are worried that the tech giant might make it even harder to find the workers that power their businesses.


Facebook's new European staff will work as part of its so-called "metaverse," the company's ambitious plan to venture beyond its current core business of connected social apps.

Shortage of French developers

Since Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced his more maximalist vision of Facebook in July, the concept of the metaverse has quickly become a buzzword in technology and business circles. Essentially a sci-fi inspired augmented reality world, the metaverse will allow people to interact through hardware like augmented reality (AR) glasses that Zuckerberg believes will eventually be as ubiquitous as smartphones.

The ambition to build what promoters claim will be the successor to the mobile internet comes with a significant investment, including multiplying the 10% of the company's 60,000-strong workforce currently based in Europe. The move has been welcomed by some as a potential booster for the continent's tech market.

Eight out of 10 French software companies say they can't find enough workers.

"In a number of regions in Europe there are clusters of pioneering technology companies. A stronger representation of Facebook can support this trend," German business daily Handelsblatt notes.

And yet the enthusiasm isn't shared by everyone. In France, company leaders worry that Facebook's five-year recruiting plan will dilute an already limited talent pool, with eight out of 10 French software companies already having difficulties finding staff, daily Les Echos reports.

The profile of Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg displayed on a smartphone

Cris Faga / ZUMA

Teleworking changes the math

There is currently a shortage of nearly 10,000 computer engineers in France, with developers being the most sought-after, according to a recent study by Numéum, the main employers' consortium of the country's digital sector.

Facebook has said its recruiters will target nations including Germany, France, Italy, Spain, Poland, the Netherlands and Ireland, without mentioning specific numbers in any country. But the French software sector, which has so far managed to retain 59% of its workforce, fears that its highly skilled and relatively affordable young talent will be fertile recruiting grounds — especially since the pandemic has ushered in a new era of teleworking.

Facebook's plan to build its metaverse comes at a time when the nearly $1-trillion company faces its biggest scandal in years over damning internal documents leaked by a whistleblower, as well as mounting antitrust scrutiny from lawmakers and regulators. Still, as the sincerity of Zuckerberg's quest is underscored by news that the pivot might also come with a new company name, European software companies might want to start thinking about how to keep their talent in this universe.

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