Malaysian king intervenes after Mahathir's resignation

King Abdullah Ri'ayatuddin Al-Mustafa Billah Shah. (Shutterstock)
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Updated 25 February 2020

Malaysian king intervenes after Mahathir's resignation

  • Mahathir on Tuesday met leaders from the PKR, BERSATU, the United Malays National Organisation, PAS and others

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia’s king has intervened to stabilize the government following Monday’s shock resignation of Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad.
King Abdullah Ri'ayatuddin Al-Mustafa Billah Shahis conducting personal interviews with 222 members of parliament at his palace in an unprecedented move.
He does not have any political power under Malaysia’s constitutional monarchy system, but will be able to deduce from the interviews which lawmaker has the most support in parliament to become prime minister.
“Let me do the duties, I hope we will find the best solution for the country,” King Abdullah told the media.Rumors of a power transition began to swirl over the weekend when MP Azim Ali held separate meetings with Mahathir, as well as with opposition parties Barisan Nasional and the Malaysian Islamic Party (PAS).
The exit of 11 MPs from the People’s Justice Party (PKR) and the Malaysian United Indigenous Party (BERSATU) from the Pakatan Harapan coalition, as well as Mahathir's resignation, led to the breakup of the alliance and left Malaysia without a government as it no longer commanded a majority.
Mahathir, who was appointed interim prime minister by the king, returned to office on Tuesday to chart the next course of action for the new government coalition.
The Comptroller of the Royal Household Ahmad Fadil Shamsuddin said all MPs would be invited for a personal interview by the monarch.
“The interview will be brief, within two to three minutes,” Shamsuddin said, adding that the whole process would be overseen by the chief secretary to the government, Mohammed Zuki bin Ali.
Ninety MPs travelled to the palace on Tuesday afternoon for the interview, with the remaining scheduled to meet the king on Wednesday.
“We will be transparent about the processes to avoid any media speculation,” Shamsuddin said.
The royal intervention was viewed as the right move for Malaysia at such a critical juncture, according to one expert.
“It is perhaps the best way for the king to determine whether the prime minister has the support of the majority of the MPs,” Adib Zalkapli, director of BowerGroupAsia, told Arab News. “The Pakatan Harapan coalition has collapsed and the king is exercising his majesty’s powers in the formation of the new government,” Zalkapli said.
One of the most intriguing aspects of the upheaval and horsetrading is the apparent isolation of Anwar Ibrahim, Mahathir’s anointed successor and prime-minister-in-waiting.
Anwar had teamed up with his former nemesis Mahathir ahead of the 2018 elections to oust the government of Najib Razak but said on Sunday he had been betrayed by his coalition partners.
Mahathir on Tuesday met leaders from the PKR, BERSATU, the United Malays National Organisation, PAS and others.
The political whirlwind has led to uncertainty in Putrajaya, Malaysia’s administrative center. One civil servant, who chose not to be named, told Arab News: “Unfortunately, I don’t really know much about what’s happening. We are all waiting for news as well.”
Political scientist Prof. Shamsul Amri Baharuddin, from the National University of Malaysia, said that the interim period would be a boon for Mahathir and his long-held agenda to bring back a Malay, ethnic-led plural society nation.
"Before this, since 1987, he has continuously split the Malays. Now he unites them at the end of his life, before the next general elections,” he told Arab News.
Mahathir’s resignation sent shockwaves through the country’s economy, with the stock exchange tumbling to its lowest point in 10 years.
The upheaval also means that the economic stimulus package which was supposed to be unveiled by the now-dissolved government this week has been put on hold, effectively leaving the country in limbo as far as major decision-making is concerned.
“I think his (the king’s) immediate role is to stabilise the government – to send a message that it is business as usual and that a new, stable government could be formed as soon as possible,” Zalkapli said, adding that a large number of MPs wanted the uncertainty to end soon. “Common sense will prevail.”


Troops from Niger and France hunt for killers of aid workers in Niger nature reserve

The wreckage of the car where six French aid workers, their local guide and the driver were killed by unidentified gunmen riding motorcycles in an area of southwestern Niger. (AFP)
Updated 10 August 2020

Troops from Niger and France hunt for killers of aid workers in Niger nature reserve

  • Attackers on motorbikes ambushed the group of aid workers as they drove through the giraffe reserve
  • France has 5,100 troops deployed in the arid region south of the Sahara desert

NIAMEY: French and Nigerien soldiers searched through a giraffe reserve and the surrounding area in Niger on Monday for traces of the gunmen who killed six French aid workers, a French military source said.
France’s anti-terrorism prosecutor also opened an investigation into the incident, in which attackers on motorbikes ambushed the group as it drove through the reserve located 65 km (40 miles) from the capital Niamey — an area considered safe by the Niger government.
The French aid workers were employed by the charity ACTED. A local driver working for the relief group and a guide were also killed. ACTED called the murders “senseless and cowardly.”
“This heinous crime must not go unpunished, nor will it distract us from our commitment to support the people of Niger,” said ACTED, which has worked to help vulnerable populations in the country since 2010.
No one has claimed responsibility for the assault. But France and other countries have warned people against traveling to parts of Niger where militants including Boko Haram and an affiliate of Daesh operate.
“Military operations are ongoing today,” the military source said.
In the clearest sign yet that France believes a militant group was behind the attack, the office of France’s anti-terrorism prosecutor said it was launching an investigation on suspicion of the involvement of a terrorist group.
French President Emmanuel Macron said he shared their families’ grief. “Our determination to combat armed terrorist groups is resolute. The fight continues,” Macron tweeted.
The reserve southeast of Niamey is home to West Africa’s last sizeable population of giraffe in the wild. In the wet season, thick green acacia bushes dot the flat, sandy plains.
It is a popular attraction in Niger, a vast country that borders seven states in an unstable region including Libya, Mali, Chad, Algeria and Nigeria.
France, a former colonial power in the region, has 5,100 troops deployed in the arid region south of the Sahara desert since 2013. The United States also has soldiers based in Niger.
Nonetheless, militant violence has been on the rise.