Tuesday, 20 Oct 2020

Stakes high as Anwar meets Malaysia's King on Tuesday to make his case for power

Political temperatures in Malaysia rose yesterday ahead of opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim’s meeting with the King, Sultan Abdullah Ri’ayatuddin, over his bid to wrest control of the government.

Moves by the police yesterday to question Datuk Seri Anwar over speculation in social media about which MPs supported his bid to wrest power from Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin’s administration were seen by some pundits as politically motivated.

The police postponed the interview to a date to be determined later, after Mr Anwar offered to go in this morning, ahead of his audience with the King.

Meanwhile, the government’s announcement of strict movement restrictions in the central Selangor state – which includes Kuala Lumpur and the administrative capital Putrajaya – to curb soaring coronavirus infections found quick opposition from the state government, which is controlled by Mr Anwar’s Pakatan Harapan coalition.

Mr Anwar, 73, is scheduled to meet Sultan Abdullah at 10am today to present him with documentation and letters of support from MPs to back up his claims of securing a formidable majority to form the next government.

Should Mr Anwar fail in his bid to convince the King of the support he claims, the looming political crisis will fizzle out, leaving the opposition leader with a credibility crisis that he is unlikely to recover from.

But should he succeed, Malaysian politics will be pushed into territory not experienced since independence in 1957.

Because Parliament will not reconvene until next month, Sultan Abdullah, whose powers are largely ceremonial under the federal Constitution, will have the ultimate say on how the crisis will be resolved – at a time when Malaysia is facing both unprecedented political and economic challenges.

Close associates of Mr Anwar, who are directly involved in this campaign to wrest power, said that constitutional experts have suggested the matter could play out in a number of ways.

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Datuk Seri Anwar will likely face a credibility crisis if he fails to convince the King of his case.

Assuming Mr Anwar convinces the King that he does possess a healthy majority – said by his associates to number at least 120 MPs – in the 222-member Lower House, Tan Sri Muhyiddin would then be summoned to the Palace, and what happens next will be crucial.

A smooth handover under the King’s guidance would be the preferred outcome, with Mr Muhyiddin conceding that he no longer enjoys the majority in Parliament.

Under these circumstances, Mr Anwar could be appointed as Malaysia’s ninth premier before the week is out.

The other prospect would be for the King to approve the dissolution of Parliament to pave the way for fresh polls, a prospect that analysts say could have disastrous repercussions following the latest spike in Covid-19 cases that has been traced to campaigning during the recent Sabah state election.

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