Malaysia’s opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim said he has the backing of a majority of lawmakers to become the prime minister, which could pave way for a national snap election.
“We have a strong, formidable majority,” Anwar told reporters on Wednesday, adding that he would soon have an audience with the king. “We need a strong stable government to run this country and to save the country.”
Anwar wouldn’t say how many lawmakers his government would command, but said it was “convincing.” He said it would be inclusive of all races and religions, and there’s no urgency to hold elections.
A representative for Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin didn’t immediately comment on the matter.
Lawmakers from both sides of the aisle had been calling for snap polls recently to settle months of political uncertainty after Muhyiddin took power with a razor-thin majority earlier this year. Muhyiddin has said he may hold asnap election sooner if his coalition wins the Sabah statewide polls on Saturday.
“Right now it’s a war of words,” said Bridget Welsh, honorary research associate at the Asia Research Institute, University of Nottingham Malaysia. “We’re entering into another period of intense negotiation and fluidity in the political situation in Malaysia, and it hasn’t really stopped since February.”
Anwar was set to meet the king on Tuesday, before the meeting was postponed as the monarch went for treatment at the National Heart Institute, according to Anwar’s prepared statement. He’s set to meet the king after the latter has recovered.
Anwar called for cooperation from Muhyiddin, who’s currently campaigning in Sabah and is set to speak in a televised address at 2:30 p.m. local time.
The benchmark FTSE Bursa Malaysia KLCI Index extended declines after the announcement to slide 0.7% as of midday break. The ringgit weakened 0.7% to 4.1615 a dollar.
“Internal politics in Malaysia remain messy, but are unlikely to affect economic policies,” said Mingze Wu, a currency trader at StoneX Group in Singapore. “However runaway weakness in the ringgit can trigger strict capital controls which will jeopardize foreign investment already within Malaysian shores. That said, there’s really not much risk of this happening right now.”
Anwar’s statement is set to push Malaysia into another round of political turmoil after the country already underwent two shock government changes in recent years. The Barisan Nasional coalition was defeated at the 2018 general election after decades of unbroken rule, only to return to power in late February when ruling lawmakers defected.
Tension over Anwar’s long-awaited claim to the premiership had partly contributed to the power struggle in February. Then-prime minister Mahathir Mohamad refused to commit to a timeline to hand over power to Anwar as promised, before abruptly resigning and leaving a power vacuum in his wake. Mahathir’s newly formed party hasn’t been included in Anwar’s tally of lawmakers supporting him.
Muhyiddin is unlikely to easily give up power, Welsh added. “I think he can learn the lesson from Mahathir: don’t resign.”
— With assistance by Hadi Azmi, Anuradha Raghu, and Y-Sing Liau
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