Malaysia Latest: Infighting in Key Bloc as PM Gridlock Continues

(Bloomberg) -- A key Malaysia bloc that could break the impasse on selecting a new prime minister was riven by infighting with lawmakers demanding their chief resign for misrepresenting their position to the monarch

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Barisan Nasional Chairman Ahmad Zahid Hamidi had told King Sultan Abdullah Sultan Ahmad Shah the bloc supported opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim as the new prime minister, but lawmakers didn’t want to back him or the other contender, former premier Muhyiddin Yassin, an official said.

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The king had advised the coalition to be part of a so-called unity government, giving the same views to the Anwar’s reformist, multi-ethnic Pakatan Harapan and Muhyiddin’s pro-Malay, Islamist alliance. He earlier sought to interview the Barisan Nasional lawmakers to ascertain who they supported but they asked for more time.

The monarch will consult the heads of other royal houses in Malaysia on Thursday as he deliberates on appointing a new leader and government.

Key Developments

  • Malaysia’s King Becomes Political Arbiter in Choosing New PM

  • Divisive Islamists Loom Over Malaysia Politics After Big Win

  • Key Malaysia Bloc Won’t Join Rivals Racing to Form Government

  • Islamic Surge Puts Malaysia’s Recovery at Risk: Clara F. Marques

  • Ringgit’s Best Days May Be Behind It as Hung Parliament Weighs

  • Malaysia Extends Deadline to Form Government as Turmoil Drags On

(All times local)

Head of Key Coalition Facing Calls to Resign (5:44 p.m.)

Barisan Nasional chief Ahmad Zahid Hamidi is facing calls to resign from component party MCA, who said he had misrepresented the coalition’s stance to the king yesterday. When confronted with evidence, Zahid admitted he informed the king that BN supports Anwar Ibrahim as prime minister, even though the BN supreme council had resolved to back no one as premier, said MCA secretary general Chong Sin Woon.

“MCA believes that Dato’ Sri Ahmad Zahid is no longer fit to continue leading Barisan Nasional, and we call for his resignation from his position as Barisan Nasional Chairman, to be replaced by Datuk Mohamad Hassan as proposed during the BN Supreme Council Meeting last night,” said Chong in a statement. Mohamad Hasan is BN election director and the deputy president of BN linchpin UMNO.

BN is set to meet again tonight, according to media reports.

King Wants BN to Join Unity Government (3:00 p.m.)

The king has decreed that former ruling bloc Barisan Nasional must be part of a so-called unity government, BN chief Ahmad Zahid Hamidi told Malaysiakini after an audience with the monarch. Two other coalition leaders were told the same when they were granted the royal audience, Zahid added. BN linchpin UMNO is set to meet tonight, and this will be followed by a meeting of the BN supreme council, according to the report.

King to Meet Fellow Rulers (2:25 p.m.)

The king will have a special meeting with the nation’s royal rulers on Thursday. The discussions with the fellow rulers is so that the king can get their views to “make a decision that’s in the best interests and welfare of the nation and people,” according to a statement from the palace.

The gathering will begin at 10:30 a.m. and could last at least three hours, the Star reported earlier, citing palace officials it didn’t name.

Malaysia practices a rotational monarchy, where the nine rulers take turns as king every five years or when a vacancy arrives.

Mahathir Speaks After Defeat (12:50 p.m.)

Malaysia’s longest-serving premier Mahathir Mohamad issued his first statement since his defeat in Saturday’s general election. The 97-year-old politician said he was sad but accepted the people’s decision.

Mahathir said he would now focus his attention on writing about the nation’s history, much of which has not been recorded, including the British colonial era. He said he was open to being interviewed by other writers.

“Pejuang is forced to abandon all its plans for the country,” Mahathir said, referring to his party, which didn’t win a single seat out of the 125 that it contested.

Read more: Mahathir’s Shock Election Loss Marks End of Decades-Long Career

Several BN Lawmakers Seen Entering Palace (10:59 a.m.)

Several Barisan Nasional leaders were seen entering the palace grounds this morning, shortly after they had asked the king to postpone their 10.30 a.m. meetings on the choice for prime minister. They include BN chief Ahmad Zahid Hamidi and election director Mohamad Hasan.

Separately, the police have set up roadblocks across the country to “increase their omnipresence to ensure public peace and safety,” according to a statement.

Key Bloc Asks For More Time to Decide on Who to Support as PM (12:05 a.m.)

Barisan Nasional is seeking to delay the royal audience with the king that’s scheduled for Wednesday 10:30 a.m., according to one of the leaders of the coalition, Malaysian Indian Congress Deputy President M. Saravanan.

“If can, we would like to postpone it to consider several issues. The Umno secretary-general has informed (the palace),” local media cited him as saying after a late night BN supreme council meeting.

His comments were confirmed by other BN leaders. Malaysian Chinese Association Secretary-General said BN’s decision not to join Anwar or Muhyiddin’s government still stood, local media reported.

Muhyiddin Turns Down King on Unity Government (7:45 p.m.)

Malaysia’s king asked Muhyiddin’s Perikatan Nasional and opposition leader Anwar’s Pakatan Harapan alliance to come together to form the next government but PN declined the monarch’s proposal, local media reported, citing the former prime minister.

Muhyiddin, who had an audience with the monarch earlier Tuesday, said his coalition was resolute in its stance of not working with PH. He said he had the support of 115 lawmakers to become the prime minister, more than the 112 needed to have a simple majority, but that wasn’t deemed enough by the king, the reports said.

Monarch to Interview All 30 Barisan Nasional Lawmakers (6:40 p.m.)

Malaysia’s King Sultan Abdullah Sultan Ahmad Shah will grant an audience to all 30 Barisan Nasional lawmakers at 10:30 am tomorrow, the national palace said in a statement Tuesday evening.

This will help the monarch determine who to appoint as the next prime minister. The statement was issued hours after the monarch summoned Anwar Ibrahim and Muhyiddin Yassin for an audience with him.

Anwar Says Malaysian King Hasn’t Made Decision on New PM (5:52 p.m.)

Anwar Ibrahim has asked that the public give the monarch time to decide on the new prime minister. The king in their meeting spoke of the need for a strong, formidable and inclusive government -- advice which Anwar said he would take into account while waiting for him to make his final choice.

“No decision has been made as of yet,” Anwar told journalists outside the national palace. The matter of forming a minority government did not come up, and, given time, Anwar said he was confident he could secure the simple majority needed to form the new administration.

Monarch Summons Competing Coalitions to Palace (3:50 p.m.)

Malaysia’s King Sultan Abdullah Sultan Ahmad Shah has summoned leaders of Anwar Ibrahim’s reformist Pakatan Harapan alliance and Muhyiddin Yassin’s pro-Malay Perikatan Nasional for an audience at the palace 4.30 p.m.

This is after he found that no lawmaker enjoyed a simple majority to be appointed as prime minister, according to a statement from the national palace.

Key Bloc Told King It Won’t Support Muhyiddin as PM (3:42 p.m.)

Barisan Nasional said it had informed the king that none of its lawmakers backed Muhyiddin Yassin as prime minister, adding the coalition is open to talks with “related quarters” to ensure a new government can be formed.

Malaysia’s King Says Will Make Decision Soon (2:57 p.m.)

Malaysia’s King Sultan Abdullah Sultan Ahmad Shah said he would come to a decision soon and urged everyone to accept the choice made by the people and lawmakers.

“Please be rational and we have to move on,” he told journalists outside the palace. “We have to move forward for our beloved country.”

The monarch smiled and laughed when one reporter asked if he planned to summon the lawmakers for an audience with him one-by-one. He did not answer the question.

--With assistance from Kok Leong Chan and Ravil Shirodkar.

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