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Malaysia uncertainty grows as Mahathir's plan for parliament vote rejected

  • Rozanna Latiff and Joseph Sipalan

    Reuters

Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia   /   Fri, February 28, 2020   /   02:38 pm
Malaysia uncertainty grows as Mahathir's plan for parliament vote rejected Malaysia's members of parliament from People's Justice Party wave to supporters after meeting with the King outside National Palace, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, on Feb. 26, 2020. (REUTERS/Lim Huey Teng)

Malaysia's political uncertainty grew on Friday after the speaker of parliament said he had rejected a request from interim leader Mahathir Mohamad for a special session next week to choose a new prime minister.

Mahathir, who plunged the Southeast Asian nation into turmoil this week by resigning as prime minister, had said on Thursday that the king had asked for the vote to pick his successor.

Parliament speaker Mohamad Ariff Md Yusof said he had received a letter from Mahathir requesting a special session on Monday, but it would not happen without an order from the king.

"The need to have a special session of parliament would only [arise] after receiving an official decree by the king regarding the process of electing a prime minister," he said in a statement.

The date for any such special meeting would be announced later, the speaker added.

A spokesman for Mahathir did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Malaysia's nine monarchs, led by Sultan Abdullah Sultan Ahmad Shah, began a meeting on Friday to determine how the next government will be formed.

The palace did not say when the decision by the hereditary ceremonial rulers of individual states would be announced, or if they would confirm Monday for the vote or outline another procedure.

Mahathir's resignation, widely perceived as the 94-year-old leader's attempt to consolidate power, shattered his coalition with old rival Anwar Ibrahim that won a surprise election victory two years ago.

His announcement about a special session had angered an opposing coalition of three parties led by Anwar, 72, who said it was inappropriate for Mahathir to pre-empt a decision by the king, whose powers would be challenged by a parliament vote.

In Malaysia's political system, the king decides which party or coalition has the most support to form a government following consultations. Then the winning group chooses the prime minister.

The vote sought by Mahathir would upend that system by allowing parliament to vote for a leader across party lines, but would achieve Mahathir's proposal to head a unity government of ministers drawn from any party he chose.

Mahathir said on Thursday the parliamentary vote was needed as the king had reported no party had a majority. The king had taken the unusual step of meeting all 222 MPs, instead of just their leaders, to gauge support.

If no candidate received majority support at Monday's vote, there would be a snap election, Mahathir added.

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