KUALA LUMPUR (Reuters) – Malaysian opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim met the king on Tuesday in a bid to prove he has a “convincing” parliamentary majority to form a new government and he called on Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin to resign.
The palace said Anwar only provided the number of members of parliament who he said back his bid to become prime minister and not their identities, and it urged him to respect the constitutional process.
It is now up to King Al-Sultan Abdullah to decide the next steps in Malaysia’s power struggle, which comes as it grapples with an economy battered by the novel coronavirus and a new surge in infections.
If the king is not convinced of Anwar’s majority, he would likely allow Muhyiddin to stay on. The king could also call a general election on the advice of the prime minister.
“I appeal to Malaysians … to allow the king to digest, decide based on the spirit of the constitution, and the discretion of his highness,” Anwar told reporters.
“We must also remember that Muhyiddin has lost his majority, and it would be appropriate for him to resign.”
Should Anwar succeed in securing the post, it would be the culmination of a 22-year long quest, which included nearly 10 years in jail on sodomy charges he denied. It would also mean Malaysia would have its third prime minister this year.
Anwar said he had the support of more than 120 lawmakers in the 222-seat parliament. Muhyiddin has had a razor-thin majority since coming to power in March.
Muhyiddin declined to comment on Anwar’s meeting at the palace.
“I leave it to the best judgement of the king,” he told reporters.
Malaysia has been facing turmoil since February when a government led by veteran leader Mahathir Mohamad collapsed.
Muhyiddin came to power after joining forces with then opposition parties but his slim majority has raised questions about his government’s stability.
Anwar said he was looking to form an inclusive government and had also extended an olive branch to Muhyiddin and was willing to discuss “whatever is deemed necessary”.
The king plays a largely ceremonial role but he can appoint a prime minister who in his view is likely to command a majority. New governments are usually elected in Malaysia but the king plays a role in certain instances.
The king appointed Muhyiddin prime minister this year after meeting every member of parliament to learn who they supported.
The king will now verify documents that Anwar presented to him and meet other party leaders, Anwar said.
It was not clear how soon a decision could be made.
There is scepticism over Anwar’s bid for the top job as no major party has made a clear declaration of support. One party, which is a member of the ruling coalition, has said some of its lawmakers supported Anwar.
“Should the meeting fail to translate into an actionable outcome, his credibility will be affected and this may push the opposition bloc to find another PM candidate,” said Shazwan Mustafa Kamal, senior associate at political consultancy Vriens & Partners.
Muhyiddin had earlier dismissed Anwar’s claim of majority backing in parliament as a “mere allegation” and told him to prove it through a constitutional process.
Leaders in Muhyiddin’s ruling coalition issued a statement on Monday declaring full support for him.
(Reporting by Joseph Sipalan; Writing by A. Ananthalakshmi; Editing by Ed Davies, Robert Birsel and Michael Perry)