World

Anwar claims he has 'formidable majority' to oust Malaysian PM

But PM Muhyiddin may seek snap elections to end political volatility in Malaysia

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia's opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim yesterday said he has secured a "formidable" majority from lawmakers to oust Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin and form a new government, heralding a fresh bout of political drama.

The power struggle comes at a difficult time for Malaysia as its economy has been badly hit by the coronavirus pandemic.

The ringgit and stocks fell after Mr Anwar's comments.

Mr Anwar now has to convince Malaysia's king, Sultan Abdullah Ri'ayatuddin, that he has the numbers to form a government, but as yet no major political party has come out in his support.

The king could instead choose to call for elections on Mr Muhyiddin's advice to end months of political volatility.

Mr Muhyiddin, whose seven-month-old coalition has survived on a razor-thin majority, dismissed Mr Anwar's claims as a "mere allegation", telling him to prove his majority through a constitutional process.

"Until proven otherwise, the Perikatan Nasional government remains steadfast and I am the rightful prime minister," Mr Muhyiddin said in a statement referring to his ruling coalition.

Mr Muhyiddin also unveiled an additional economic stimulus package worth RM10 billion (S$3.3 billion).

The six major political parties supporting Mr Muhyiddin dismissed Mr Anwar's claim as "cheap publicity" and said in a joint statement that they were firmly behind Mr Muhyiddin, who emerged as leader after the previous prime minister, Dr Mahathir Mohamad, resigned.

If Mr Anwar finally succeeds in winning power, it would mark the culmination of a 22-year long struggle, during which he spent almost 10 years in jail.

"We have a strong, formidable majority. I'm not talking about four, five, six (seats), I'm talking about much more than that," Mr Anwar told reporters.

"With these numbers, Muhyiddin has fallen as PM."

Mr Anwar said he commanded support from close to two-thirds of the legislature's 222 lawmakers, without giving actual numbers or disclosing who had pledged support.

He also said he has the support of some lawmakers from Mr Muhyiddin's coalition and that he was open to working with the premier.

Dr Mahathir, whose past feud with Mr Anwar charted the course of Malaysian politics over the past 20 years, said he will "wait to see if this is another episode of making claims that cannot be substantiated", The Edge newspaper reported.

Mr Anwar's next step would be to meet the king, who plays a largely ceremonial role in Malaysia, but could appoint a prime minister who in his view can command a majority in Parliament. He could also dissolve Parliament and trigger elections on the premier's advice.

Mr Anwar and the palace said he was scheduled to meet the king on Tuesday, but the meeting had to be cancelled as the king was unwell and had to be taken to a hospital. - REUTERS

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