The King has called a meeting of Malaysia’s nine state rulers on August 20, which could be the penultimate act in resolving the month-long political crisis that has left the nation without a Prime Minister for the second time in 18 months after Muhyiddin Yassin was forced to resign on August 16.
Parliament’s 220 members were due to submit their choice of successor by 4pm (0800 GMT) on August 18, and should a clear majority emerge, Sultan Abdullah Ahmad Shah could swear him in immediately.
However, according to Parti Warisan Sabah president Shafie Apdal, the ruler wants to vet the tally first.
“His Majesty will call to ensure they are truly giving support to the chosen candidate. If a candidate is found to be appointed as prime minister, it has been decreed for this to be brought to Parliament for confirmation,” he said in an interview with Astro Awani on the night of August 17.
This could delay the confirmation of a new premier beyond the meeting of the state monarchs – who rotate five-year terms as the federation’s Supreme Ruler, or Agong – as notice will need to be given to lawmakers to attend Parliament.
Given that Umno’s 38 previously split lawmakers decided late on August 17 to back their vice-president Ismail Sabri Yaakob, it appears that the deputy premier in the Muhyiddin administration is set to be promoted to the highest office with the support of 115 members of Parliament (MP).
This is despite Pakatan Harapan (PH) chief Anwar Ibrahim finally gathering the support of all 105 opposition MPs, including the 17 outside his PH coalition. A bloc of at least 111 is needed for a simple majority in the 222-seat chamber, as two are currently vacant.
The Straits Times understands that the opposition leader is making a last-ditch appeal to Gabungan Parti Sarawak’s 18 MPs. The ruling coalition in the eastern state was part of the Perikatan Nasional (PN) government, which had 100 MPs at the time Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia president Muhyiddin resigned.
Nonetheless, several sources with knowledge of August 20’s rulers’ meet told the Straits Times that aside from discussing who might be Malaysia’s ninth premier, the proposal for a unity government could also be on the agenda.
After the unique joint audience of all the major party chiefs along with the King and his deputy on the afternoon of August 17, Sultan Nazrin Azlan Shah, several leaders such as Anwar said the King called for a change in the “shape of politics” and “a pooling of the strengths of all parties with a new understanding in the spirit of cooperation”.
“If I’m not mistaken, the King wants a bipartisan Cabinet,” said one official who could not be named due to the confidentiality of the audience. “Umno is agreeable so that Ismail Sabri won’t be all powerful.”
However, it is unclear if the rulers can prevail on the choice of ministers as the power to appoint a Cabinet lies with the prime minister.
THE STRAITS TIMES (SINGAPORE)/ASIA NEWS NETWORK