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Malaysia's king calls on parties to work together in search for new PM

Malaysia's king calls on parties to work together in search for new PM
August 17, 2021 --- Web Desk

KUALA LUMPUR (Reuters) – Malaysia's king asked leaders from different parties to work together to address the economic and health woes facing the country, as he began a search on Tuesday to replace Muhyiddin Yassin as prime minister.

Muhyiddin resigned on Monday with no obvious successor, deepening a long-running political crisis as the Southeast Asian nation battles a COVID-19 surge and an economic slump. He cited lack of parliamentary support but will stay on as caretaker until a new government is formed.

The constitutional monarch, King Al-Sultan Abdullah, who met leaders of political parties on Tuesday, had previously ruled out elections because of the pandemic, saying he would appoint a prime minister he believed likely to command a majority.

In line with the king's decree, the speaker of Malaysia's parliament asked lawmakers on Tuesday to each submit a letter to the palace stating their choice of the next prime minister.

The king, meanwhile, told political leaders that the new prime minister must have a majority in the parliament, but also that "the shape of politics must change", opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim said after meeting the monarch.

"The issue was not just about appointing a new prime minister, but what's more important that was stressed by the King is to come up with a form of politics that is more peaceful for the people," Anwar told reporters.

Malaysia has been in a state of political flux since widespread graft accusations led to the 2018 election defeat of the United Malays National Organisation (UMNO), which had governed for more than 60 years since independence.

Mahathir Mohamad led the opposition to election victory for the first time, but the alliance collapsed from infighting. Muhyiddin then put together a coalition with political parties that were defeated in the polls, including UMNO.

But that alliance was also fragile, and a constant tussle with UMNO, which balked at playing second fiddle, prompted Muhyiddin's resignation after just 17 months in office.

CHOICE OF PM

At present, no lawmaker has a clear majority in parliament. The opposition bloc and UMNO, Malaysia's biggest party, are split on support for their prime ministerial candidates.

No single political party has a majority in parliament, so a successful prime ministerial candidate will have to forge a coalition.

Malaysia's lawmakers must submit their choice of prime minister by 4 p.m. (0800 GMT) on Wednesday in letters to the palace, parliament speaker Azhar Azizan Harun said in a notice to lawmakers.

The letters may be sent by facsimile, email or on the online messaging service WhatsApp, he added, saying there would be no in-person submission at the palace because of COVID-19 risks.

Last year, when then premier Mahathir quit, the king met all 222 members of parliament to seek their choices for the next leader. After a week of discussions, he picked Muhyiddin.

UMNO could now reclaim the leadership role, as many likely successors to Muhyiddin belong to the party. Anwar could also stake a claim.

The ringgit currency stabilised on Tuesday after falling to a one-year low a day earlier on news of Muhyiddin's resignation. The benchmark stock index (.KLSE) gained 1% following some losses on Monday.

"The prime minister's resignation both lengthens and increases uncertainty as the eventual coalition formed can create policy delay, changes as well as the coalition being unstable itself," analysts at Affin Hwang Capital said in a research note. 

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