Malaysian king rejects Mahathir’s call as turmoil deepens

KUALA LUMPUR, MALAYSIA (AP) — Malaysia’s king yesterday said he will let party leaders nominate prime ministerial candidates, rejecting interim leader Mahathir Mohamad’s call for a vote by Parliament to chose a new leader and deepening the country’s political turmoil following the collapse of the ruling coalition.

Mahathir, 94, who is seeking to return as prime minister for a third time, also suffered another blow after his Bersatu party switched allegiance and said it has decided to nominate its president as prime minister.

Mahathir on Thursday said the king would let the Lower House of Parliament vote next Monday to elect a new prime minister and that snap elections would be called if there were an impasse. But the House speaker yesterday rejected Mahathir’s bid to hold a vote, saying it didn’t follow proper procedures and preempted an official decree from the King.

The palace later broke its silence, saying in a statement that the King, Sultan Abdullah Sultan Ahmad Shah, had taken note of the House speaker’s decision.

It confirmed that the King had been unable to find a candidate with majority support to form a government after interviewing all 222 lawmakers, but said he would “continue to seek a solution in line with the federal constitution.”

The palace will reach out to leaders of political parties to let them nominate candidates for the top job, it said.

This Thursday, 27 February 2020, photo shows the entrance to National Palace in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. PHOTO: AP

A failed bid by Mahathir’s supporters to form a new government without his designated successor, Anwar Ibrahim, and Mahathir’s subsequent shock resignation on Monday broke apart the ruling alliance less than two years after it defeated a corruption-tainted coalition that had led the country for 61 years.

His Bersatu party ditched the alliance in a bid to form a new government with several opposition parties including the United Malays National Organization (UMNO) the party of disgraced former Prime Minister Najib Razak, who is on trial on corruption charges. But it flopped after Mahathir quit in protest of working with UMNO.

Mahathir is seeking to form a non-partisan government if chosen as prime minister. Anwar is also vying to become leader, reviving their two decades-old political feud.