Malaysia still in limbo as Agong continues search for new PM

Justin Ong
Yang di-Pertuan Agong Al-Sultan Abdullah Ri'ayatuddin Al-Mustafa Billah Shah speaks to members of the media at Istana Negara February 25, 2020. ― Picture by Miera Zulyana

KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 26 — The Yang di-Pertuan Agong will meet more federal lawmakers today to identify a suitable candidate to be prime minister, after unprecedented developments yesterday left Malaysia no closer to a new government.

Since yesterday afternoon, MPs have gone to the Istana Negara to inform Sultan Abdullah Ri'ayatuddin Al-Mustafa Billah Shah of whom they supported to be the head of the government.

At the time, virtually all factions including Pakatan Harapan, Bersatu, Umno, PAS, and Gabungan Parti Sarawak were united in their support for Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad to continue as prime minister.

This prompted reports that Dr Mahathir was about to achieve a “unity government” that would effectively be a grand coalition encompassing the country’s political parties.

Shortly after Umno and PAS left the Istana Negara, however, both announced they were withdrawing support for Dr Mahathir over the unwillingness to join any administration that would include DAP, which both continued to blame for the country’s problems, real and imagined.

Despite having no reservations about joining the rumoured coalition government, the two parties now insist that only fresh elections would resolve the current political impasse.

Today, the Agong will continue meeting the country’s remaining lawmakers after already polling those from PAS, Umno and GPS. On the schedule to see him are those from PH and Datuk Seri Azmin Ali’s rogue faction that quit PKR to become independent.

Although losing the support of Umno and PAS will frustrate Dr Mahathir’s plan for a “unity government”, he could still form the next administration if all those still declared for him follow through with their public pledges.

PH said its lawmakers still supported Dr Mahathir to stay while GPS has not rescinded its statement promising to back him as PM.

Sabah’s Warisan also said it wanted him to continue, but not as emphatically as Azmin and his band.

When combined with Bersatu, the expressed support could theoretically give Dr Mahathir an even stronger command of Parliament than PH had before its collapse.

However, as none of the parties are bound by their pledges of support, Malaysia will remain in uncertainty until the Agong officially names a new prime minister.

The upheaval at the federal level has also begun spreading to states marginally held by PH, with the Opposition in Johor claiming they now possessed the majority needed to form a new state government.

Perak Mentri Besar Datuk Seri Ahmad Faizal Azumu is also under pressure to demonstrate that he still retained the support of the state’s lawmakers following his party’s decision to leave PH, after the state Opposition leader asserted that the state assembly was effectively deadlocked at the moment.

More worryingly for Malaysians eager for a return to political stability is Dr Mahathir’s continued silence throughout the entire episode.

While confidantes, allies and subordinates have sought to speak for him and portray him as upset by supposed attempts to have him renege on his promise to hand over power to PKR’s Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim, the interim PM has yet to address the nation or even comment publicly.

Instead, it was the Agong who dropped protocol yesterday to hold an impromptu press conference at the Istana Negara, during which he urged Malaysians to be patient.

Dr Mahathir resigned unexpectedly on Monday after a Sunday full of political intrigue stemming from a suspected plot to form a coalition government without the main PKR, DAP, and Amanah.

Bersatu also announced it was quitting PH, which along with the Azmin faction’s departure from PKR, effectively caused the government to collapse.

 

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