KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia’s opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim has called for Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin’s resignation, saying he had submitted evidence of support for his new government to the king on Tuesday.
Anwar met Yang di-Pertuan Agong Al-Sultan Abdullah Ri’ayatuddin Al-Mustafa Billah Shah after saying last month that he had the support of more than 120 lawmakers in the 222-member parliament.
“I have today presented the Agong (king) with documents regarding my strong and firm majority from members of parliament, and I hope everyone will give the Agong space to conduct his duties with due diligence,” Anwar, president of the People’s Justice Party, told a press conference.
The palace confirmed Anwar’s audience with the Agong, but denied he had submitted any documents.
“In the 25-minute session, Anwar has presented his claim of support from members of parliament, but he did not disclose the name list of the parliamentarians to strengthen his claim,” Ahmad Fadil Shamsuddin, comptroller of the royal household, said.
The Agong advised Anwar to adhere to and respect the legal processes, as stated in the constitution.
Malaysia’s government has 222 MPs in the lower house of parliament and, at the last count, Muhyiddin’s National Alliance (NA) government commanded the support of 114 of them. A minimum of 112 MPs is needed to form a government.
Anwar said that several questions had been raised following his statements in September, when he claimed to have the backing of a majority of parliamentarians while championing racial rights in favor of the Bumiputera and Malay communities.
He reassured the public that everyone’s rights would be respected and that, in due time, the Agong would call for meetings with party leaders to confirm and acquire their input. He also warned that Muhyiddin’s government had collapsed.
But experts disagreed, saying that Muhyiddin’s government was safe for the time being unless some parties from his NA coalition withdrew.
“Many MPs want to stay in government, regardless of who the PM is and joining an abortive coup will land themselves in opposition, losing perks and possibly facing selective prosecution,” Prof. Wong Chin Huat, a political scientist at Sunway University in Kuala Lumpur, told Arab News.
Wong said that such a move could lead some - not all - who wanted to switch sides to do it only when they were sure they were the majority.
“In other words, the threshold is hard to cross by Anwar or other plotters, but once that threshold is crossed, many in the government would just pledge loyalty to the new boss in the name of stability, fighting COVID-19, national interests,” Wong added.
Muhyiddin hit back at his rival’s claims, telling the media: “I don’t want to comment on what Anwar did in the palace. I leave it to the best judgement of the king, who is the most qualified person.”
Anwar’s move to claim a majority is another blow to Malaysia’s constitution after a coup in February, when former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohammad resigned abruptly following secret meetings with his party and opposition members.
The Alliance of Hope government came into power in 2018 after 60 years of rule by the National Front, led by the disgraced and convicted former prime minister, Najib Razak.
Najib was embroiled in scandals involving state funds which many believe led to the National Front government’s downfall.
Malaysia’s constitution says that the appointment of the prime minister is the king’s discretionary function.
While the discretion is broad, it is not absolute. It also says that within democratic rule, and based on constitutional elections, the monarch’s power to choose the prime minister must be exercised within the parameters of the constitution and conventions.