Mahathir & Johor royalty showing who has more power over new Johor Chief Minister appointment

Whoever gets appointed eventually will have to contend with both sides.

Belmont Lay| April 10, 05:33 PM

Malaysia Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad has stated categorically that the appointment of the new Johor Chief Minister would be a political decision.

The role has been vacated following the announcement that Osman Sapian has stepped down.

A political decision

Mahathir said on April 10 the role of appointing the new mentri besar lies with the political party that won the election, not with the Sultan of Johor.

"It will take some time to appoint an acting mentri besar of Johor. We will try to appoint one as soon as possible," Mahathir said.

"We have a few candidates we have to trace; very quickly, we will find him."

When pressed if it was the Sultan of Johor who would be appointing the chief minister or acting chief minister, Mahathir said: "This is a political decision."

Front-runners

Mahathir also said that he did not confirm if Sahruddin Jamal from his Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia was one of the candidates in the running for the post.

"I do not know," Mahathir said.

Johor Mentri Besar Osman Sapian resigned from the post on Monday, April 8.

Following that announcement, Mahathir said the replacement must come from his Bersatu party.

Sahruddin, the state Health, Environment and Agriculture Committee chairman, is widely regarded as the front-runner.

But the other Pakatan Harapan coalition parties have also nominated their assemblymen for the top post.

Johor royalty weighs in

How exactly did Osman only last 11 months as chief minister is still anyone's guess.

This was especially after the Johor Crown Prince, Ismail Sultan Ibrahim, wrote on Twitter on April 9 that his father the sultan ordered the change of chief.

His father, Johor Sultan Ibrahim Iskandar, had supposedly decreed that the state’s chief minister be changed -- which has been construed as intervening with political decision-making and a direct challenge to Mahathir.

Ismail Sultan Ibrahim also tweeted that the appointment of the Johor mentri besar was the absolute right of the state ruler -- which is contrary to Mahathir's stance that the chief minister is a political appointee.

The crown prince also tweeted that he hoped the new chief minister would not be a "yes man" to Putrajaya.

Previously, Mahathir had challenged the crown prince to participate in parliamentary politics if he was serious about being part of the political decision-making process.

Insistence that royalty got rid of Osman

The crown prince went even further by saying that Osman's departure was the doing of the Johor sultan.

Ismail Sultan Ibrahim wrote: "The welfare of the people and well-being of the state must always be a priority," he wrote in his official Twitter account, adding that a decree to change the mentri besar had been ongoing for a while."

"But somebody else is taking the credit and mileage, claiming that he ordered it."

"His Majesty (Sultan Ibrahim) has reviewed to change the mentri besar months ago."

Before his resignation, Osman's performance was seen as unsatisfactory -- to whom in particular, is still up for debate.

Why is royalty muscling in?

Each of the nine Malaysian monarchs are only ceremonial rulers.

Real executive power lies with the menteri besar, or chief minister, of each Malaysian state, as well as the prime minister at the national level.

But the monarchs are not always content with remaining in the background.

In recent years, the sultans of Perak and Selangor have intervened in politics at the state level.

Moreover, during Mahathir's first tenure as prime minister, royal prerogatives were curtailed.

The recent political moves made by Malaysia’s monarchs may demonstrate a desire to reclaim their authority and influence.