Malaysian king calls meeting of royals to break political deadlock

Thursday, Nov 24, 2022

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia´s king has called for royal rulers to meet on Thursday to resolve a political impasse that left the country without a prime minister days after inconclusive polls, the palace said.

Opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim and former prime minister Muhyiddin Yassin remain the frontrunners for the top job. Malaysia´s king, Sultan Abdullah Sultan Ahmad Shah, has the discretionary power to appoint a premier whom he believes has the majority of lawmakers´ support.

The palace said on Wednesday the meeting of the country´s Malay rulers is aimed at helping the king “make the decision for the benefit and well-being of the country and the people”. Largely Muslim Malaysia is a constitutional monarchy, with a unique arrangement where the throne rotates every five years between rulers of the nine Malaysian states headed by centuries-old Islamic royalty. The system has been in place since Malaysia´s independence from Britain in 1957.

While their role is largely ceremonial, Malaysia´s Islamic royalty command great respect, especially from Muslim Malays, and criticising them is strictly forbidden. At the weekend election, Anwar´s Pakatan Harapan (Alliance of Hope) coalition won the most number of seats at 82 while Muhyiddin´s Perikatan Nasional (National Alliance) grouping grabbed 73, but both missed the simple majority of 112.

The once mighty Barisan Nasional -- dominated by jailed ex-leader Najib Razak´s United Malays National Organisation (UMNO) party -- trailed far behind with 30 seats.Muhyiddin said he had declined the king’s suggestion for the rivals to work together to form a “unity government”. Muhyiddin runs an ethnic Malay Muslim conservative alliance, while Anwar heads a multi-ethnic coalition.

Muhyiddin’s bloc includes an the Islamist party PAS, whose electoral gains have raised concern in a country with significant ethnic Chinese and ethnic Indian minorities, most of whom follow other faiths. Investors have also been spooked over worries about the Islamist party’s possible impact on policies. Police this week cautioned social media users to refrain from posting “provocative” content on race and religion after the divisive election.