KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 23 (Reuters) – Malaysia’s king called a special meeting of his hereditary sultans on Wednesday to discuss who should be prime minister as an unprecedented post-election crisis entered its fourth day.
The king is set to choose a new prime minister after the leading candidates – opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim and former prime minister Muhyiddin Yassin – failed to secure enough support for a majority after a Saturday election that led to an unprecedented hung parliament.
The uncertainty surrounding the election prolongs political instability in the Southeast Asian country, which has had three prime ministers in as many years, and risks delaying policy decisions needed to promote economic recovery.
The Council of Rulers, which groups together the heads of all nine royal houses, will meet on Thursday to discuss the formation of a new government, a statement from the palace said.
“The purpose of the meeting of the Council of Malay Rulers is for the king to get the minds of the Malay rulers so that he can make a decision for the well-being of the people and the country,” the palace said.
King Al-Sultan Abdullah Sultan Ahmad Shah is in the spotlight as he considers who will be the next prime minister, after both Anwar and Muhyiddin missed Tuesday afternoon’s deadline to put together an alliance.
The constitutional monarch plays a largely ceremonial role, but can appoint a prime minister he believes will have a majority in parliament.
Malaysia has a unique constitutional monarchy where kings are elected in turn from the royal families of nine states to rule for a five-year term.
King Al-Sultan Abdullah announced a special council after meeting lawmakers from the incumbent Barisan Nasional coalition.
Anwar’s coalition, known as Pakatan Harapan, won the most seats in Saturday’s election with 82, while Muhyiddin’s Perikatan Nasional bloc won 73. They need 112 – a simple majority – to form a government.
Barisan won just 30 seats – the worst electoral performance for a coalition that had dominated politics since independence in 1957 – but the support of MPs will be crucial for both Anwar and Muhyiddin to reach 112.
Barisan said on Tuesday it would not align with any of the rival coalitions.
Muhyiddin said he had rejected the king’s suggestion that the rivals work together to form a “unity government”. Muhyiddin runs an ethnic Malay Muslim conservative alliance, while Anwar leads a multi-ethnic coalition.
Muhyiddin’s bloc includes an Islamist PAS party, whose electoral gains have caused concern in a country with significant ethnic Chinese and ethnic Indian minorities, most of whom follow other faiths.
Investors have also been spooked by concerns about the Islamist party’s possible influence on politics.
Police this week warned social media users to refrain from posting “provocative” content about race and religion after the divisive election.
Reporting by Rozanna Latiff, A. Ananthalakshmi and Mei Mei Chu; Author of Rozanna Latiff; Editing by Gerry Doyle, Robert Birsel
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