M'sia king summons party leaders to pick 'neutral' PM as country plunges deeper into pandemic crisis

Power play continues.

Belmont Lay | August 17, 2021, 04:08 PM

The Malaysia king has summoned the various party leaders at one go to his Istana Negara palace on Aug. 17 to pick a new prime minister as the country continues to plunge deeper into the Covid-19 pandemic hole.

The Straits Times reported that Sultan Abdullah Ahmad Shah is meeting the chiefs of the various political factions -- Umno, Parti Pejuang Tanah Air, Parti Islam SeMalaysia and Pakatan Harapan's (PH) three components.

They arrived a few minutes before 2pm.

The king has set a Wednesday, Aug. 18, 4pm deadline for the 220 MPs to declare a single name who would succeed outgoing prime minister Muhyiddin Yassin.

The sultan has once again stepped in to resolve a political deadlock for the second time in 18 months.

Seeking a compromise candidate acceptable to all

ST reported that the king is making the various political factions set aside their differences and pick a compromise candidate to lead a unity government with a "war time" cabinet.

There is so far no leader able to present a clear majority.

A total of 111 names are needed for a simple majority in parliament.

Some names have cropped up

A few potential PM names have cropped up though.

  • Umno vice-president Ismail Sabri Yaakob: Nominally leading the fallen Perikatan Nasional.
  • Opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim: Has backing of about 90 lawmakers with 88 from his PH coalition.
  • Ex-PM Muhyiddin: Unable to rally all of Umno's 38 MPs behind him, but if so, would boost their ranks from 100 to 115.

Most likely candidate: An 84-year-old man

However, the leading nominee to head a unity government would be Umno's former finance minister Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah.

The 84-year-old Kelantan prince is Malaysia's longest-serving lawmaker, and seen as acceptable to various factions as he is widely respected but not viewed as being ambitious enough to dominate the political landscape.

Umno politicians latch on to Razaleigh

Among those who support Razaleigh are Umno president Zahid Hamidi.

But Zahid's camp is picking Razaleigh for supposedly self-serving ends.

Zahid claimed that "to ensure political stability and cooperation can be achieved, the act of persecuting opposing parties and leaders must end", which raised eyebrows.

Many in Zahid's faction, which has about 15 MPs, are mired in graft cases.

The legitimacy of Umno's Supreme Council is also in question after deciding to delay its leadership polls.

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