Malaysia's interim Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad has revealed that no candidate has been able to gain the majority support of the country’s 222 Members of Parliament (MPs), and as such, the matter will be referred to Parliament.
After his audience with the King, Mahathir told reporters on Thursday evening that a special Parliamentary session will be held on March 2 to deal with the issue.
“The King has asked all MPs to make a statement . . . in front of him. The result is that he can’t find anyone with a distinct majority. Since there isn’t a distinct majority he says the right forum would be the Dewan Rakyat,” he said, referring to Parliament’s House of Representatives.
However, should a vote of confidence in Parliament not yield a definitive result, then elections will be called.
Mahathir said: “Dewan Rakyat will be called on 2nd of next month. If the Dewan Rakyat fails to find a person with a majority we would have to go for a snap election.
“If somebody gets a majority [in Parliament] and he becomes candidate for prime minister then he is in position to choose members of his cabinet. He can choose any member that would not be tied to any particular party.
“It would be a unity government because all parties have representatives in the cabinet but other people can be co-opted to be ministers in cabinet,” he said, reiterating a call he made in his speech a day earlier for a nonpartisan government.
Many unanswered questions remain if such a government can be formed, with political parties from both sides declaring an unwillingness to work with each other.
During his televised address on Wednesday, Mahathir said he does not want a coalition dominated by his former party, the United Malay National Organisation (Umno).
However, his party lieutenant in Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (Bersatu) Tan Sri Muhyiddin feels differently.
Mahathir said: “My position is that I will not accept Umno as a component party. I would accept members who joined, not identified by Umno, I’ll accept them. But Muhyiddin is a little bit more relaxed on that, he’s quite prepared to accept them as a comrade.”
On his meeting earlier with Muhyiddin, he said: “There are various possibilities we’ve discussed including the possibility that Muhyiddin might become a candidate [for prime minister]. If everybody chooses him, I’m okay.
“I will not be prime minister if I’m not named as candidate,” he said.
The Malaysian King, Sultan Abdullah Ri’ayatuddin, appointed Mahathir as interim prime minister following his resignation on Monday. Mahathir’s Bersatu also exited the ruling coalition Pakatan Harapan on the same day, leading to the collapse of the coalition.
Pakatan Harapan now consists of PKR, Democratic Action Party (DAP) and Parti Amanah Negara (Amanah). With only 92 lawmakers, it is short of the 112 needed to form government.
The coalition announced on Wednesday that it would throw its support behind PKR president Anwar Ibrahim as its prime minister of choice. This marked a U-turn from Monday’s announcement that the alliance was supporting Mahathir.
It is unclear whether any resolution will be reached at the special Parliamentary session, given no clear leader has the numerical support needed to form a government.
Mahathir has not entirely struck out any working relationship with Pakatan Harapan despite the break-up.
Asked if he would consider rejoining hands with Pakatan Harapan, the leader said: “If it is a unity government, members can come from the parties but they’ll come as individuals and not looked upon as representing their parties.”
“At this moment I don’t have the power to form my cabinet,” he said, in response to a question if he would have an interim cabinet.
THE STRAITS TIMES (SINGAPORE)/ASIA NEWS NETWORK