Published: Thu, February 27, 2020
Global News | By Blake Casey

Malaysia in turmoil as Mahathir, Anwar vie for power

Malaysia in turmoil as Mahathir, Anwar vie for power

Interim Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad yesterday proposed a non-partisan unity government to fill the vacuum caused by the collapse of the Pakatan Harapan government on Monday.

He said King Sultan Abdullah Ri'ayatuddin could not determine if anyone had a clear majority, even after private audiences with all 221 members of parliament, excluding himself.

"If the lower house fails to find a person with the majority, then we will have to go for a snap election", Mahathir told a news conference.

The Southeast Asian country was plunged into political turmoil this week by the unexpected resignation of Mahathir, who at 94 is the world's oldest government leader.

Officially the king appoints the prime minister, and he has been interviewing all the country's MPs since Monday to work out who they support.

Parliament would be called on March 2 to pick a prime minister, Mahathir said.

"Politics and political parties need to be put aside for now", Dr Mahathir said in a televised message.

Saudi Arabia suspends Umrah pilgrim visits over coronavirus fears
On Wednesday, Pakistan reported its first two cases of coronavirus, Special Assistant to PM on Health Dr Zafar Mirza confirmed. A Jeddah-bound flight of the PIA, PK-747 carrying 133 Umrah pilgrims was stopped from take-off from the Karachi airport.

This latest crisis between Mr Anwar and Dr Mahathir was prompted after Dr Mahathir resisted pressure to set a date for a promised transfer of power to Mr Anwar made ahead of the 2018 election.

In its report, The Star quoted PAS deputy president Tuan Ibrahim Tuan Man as saying that MPs from his Islamic party, together with Umno, have backed Tan Sri Muhyiddin to be Malaysia's next premier.

Mr. Anwar said lawmakers from the three remaining parties in his alliance have nominated him as the prime minister after Mahathir rejected their offer to restore their former government.

The victory of the "Pact of Hope" alliance in 2018 was initially greeted with euphoria as it ended the six-decade rule of the notoriously corrupt Barisan Nasional coalition and prime minister Najib. "Only the country's best interests will be prioritised".

"Umno and PAS are steadfast in our stand to request to the King for Parliament to be dissolved so that the people can exercise their right with regard to the problem facing us today", he said in a statement. Anwar led a reform movement that helped build a fledgeling opposition but was jailed a second time for sodomy in 2014 in a move he said was aimed at killing his political career.

Anwar's camp still controls 41% of parliamentary seats but could be the largest bloc after two key Malay opposition parties withdrew their support for Mahathir. But their relationship remained uneasy as Mahathir refused to set a time frame to hand over power to Anwar.

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