Malaysia’s king urges politicians to end uncertainty as power struggle drags on

Malaysia's King, Al-Sultan Abdullah Ri’ayatuddin Al-Mustafa Billah Shah, inspects an honour guard during the 62nd Merdeka Day (Independence Day) celebrations in Putrajaya, Malaysia

Malaysia’s King Al-Sultan Abdullah on Friday called on politicians not to drag the country through more political uncertainty and urged them to resolve issues through negotiations and constitutional means.

The king’s comments come amid a power struggle over the premiership between Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin and opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim, just seven months after another wrangle led to Muhyiddin forming the government.

Anwar met the king this week to prove he has the majority to form a government with the help of defectors from the current administration. But further meetings at the palace were cancelled due to movement restrictions to control the spread of the novel coronavirus.

The latest bout of uncertainty comes as Malaysia grapples with an economy battered by the coronavirus and a new surge in infections.

In a statement from the palace, the king advised lawmakers to “display maturity” and urged them to resolve problems through negotiations and legal processes enshrined in the constitution.

“Regarding the latest developments in the country’s political situation, His Majesty advised the people, especially politicians, to come together to ensure that the country is never again dragged into political uncertainty while we are all still faced with various problems and a difficult future due to the threat of the COVID-19 epidemic,” the palace said.

The king plays a largely ceremonial role but he can appoint a prime minister who in his view is likely to command a majority. New governments are usually elected in Malaysia but the palace plays a role in certain instances.

The king appointed Muhyiddin as prime minister this year after the unexpected resignation of Mahathir Mohamad in February, whose government collapsed due to infighting.

Mahathir, who is now in the opposition, and five other lawmakers from his party each submitted motions of no confidence in Muhyiddin’s leadership on Friday.

Separately, Anwar was summoned to give a statement to the police over a list of lawmakers said to be backing his bid for the premiership which went viral on social media.

Anwar said it was a “malicious” attempt to pressure him to reveal the identities of his supporters.

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