KUALA LUMPUR (Reuters) – Malaysia’s King Abdullah Sultan Ahmad Shah is in the spotlight as he contemplates his choice of who will be the country’s next prime minister, after elections that left no party with a majority in parliament and the coalition. The talks failed.
Sultan Abdullah said on Tuesday he would decide “soon” between opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim and former prime minister Muhyiddin Yassin after neither politician was able to secure enough support to form a coalition after Saturday’s elections.
It will be the third time the king has chosen a prime minister in just over two years – though the first time this has happened after an election.
Who is the King of Malaysia?
King Sultan Abdullah Sultan Ahmad Shah ascended the throne in 2019 at the age of 59, becoming the 16th monarch of Malaysia since its independence from Britain in 1957.
Malaysia has a unique constitutional monarchy in which the kings are chosen in turns from the royal families of nine states, and each reigns for five years.
The silver-haired, bespectacled Sultan Abdullah became king after the previous king’s sudden abdication from the throne.
The ruler of Pahang state on Malaysia’s east coast, King Sultan Abdullah, became popular for his photo-realism early in his reign after he was seen queuing up at Kentucky Fried Chicken and helping accident victims on a highway.
Sultan Abdullah is a keen sportsman, who represented his country in football matches in his younger days. He has served as a member of the FIFA Executive Committee and President of the Asian Hockey Federation.
Is it always the king’s choice?
no. Elections usually determine who will be the Prime Minister of Malaysia under a parliamentary system.
But the constitution gives him the power to appoint a prime minister who he believes can command a majority among lawmakers.
Malaysia’s monarchs have rarely used this power, but the political instability of the past two years has prompted the king to choose a prime minister.
The monarchy has played a more influential role since 2020 amid the decline of the once dominant Barisan National Alliance and its flagship party, the United Malays National Organization (UMNO).
Barisan led every government from independence from British colonial rule in 1957 until its electoral defeat in 2018. He was voted out after a multibillion-dollar scandal at state fund 1MDB.
is this happened before?
yes. King Sultan Abdullah appointed two former prime ministers, though this is the first time this has happened after elections failed to produce a clear winner.
King appointed Muhyiddin as prime minister in February 2020 when then-prime minister Mahathir Mohamad resigned due to alliance infighting.
Sultan Abdullah took the unusual step of meeting with all of Mahathir’s 222 deputies after Mahathir’s resignation to determine who had the majority to form a new government, eventually choosing Mahathir’s former ally Muhyiddin Yassin.
Less than a year later, after the collapse of Muhyiddin’s coalition, the king asked lawmakers to present a letter to all those who support him as prime minister and decided to appoint the next prime minister – Ismail Sabri Yacoub, who was in power until the last elections.
what happened after that?
King Anwar and Muhyiddin met on Tuesday.
Muhyiddin said the king suggested that he and Anwar form a “unity government” together, but he did not agree.
The king summoned 30 lawmakers from the Barisan National Alliance to meet on Wednesday to decide who would become prime minister.
Barisan posted her worst electoral performance on Saturday but plays a pivotal role in forming the government as her support is needed for both Anwar and Muhyiddin to win a majority.
Whoever is eventually named prime minister is likely to face more political turmoil of the sort that has plagued the country in recent years.
(Reporting by Mei Mei Chu) Writing by Kay Johnson. Editing by Bernadette Baum
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