Malaysian royal palace postpones meetings due to coronavirus curbs

·2 min read
Malaysia opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim speaks during a news conference in Kuala Lumpur

By Joseph Sipalan

KUALA LUMPUR (Reuters) - Malaysia's royal palace postponed from Wednesday all meetings for two weeks because of new coronavirus curbs, a palace official said, likely putting off a decision on a bid by opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim to form a new government.

Anwar had on Tuesday met King Al-Sultan Abdullah to try to prove he had a "convincing" parliamentary majority to form a government, sparking a fresh bout of political wrangling just months after Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin took office.

The king was scheduled to meet leaders of main political parties to verify Anwar's claim but a two-week partial lockdown took effect from Wednesday in the capital, Kuala Lumpur, and neighbouring state of Selangor.

"Yes, due to the CMCO and the implementation of National Palace lockdown," palace comptroller Ahmad Fadil Shamsuddin told Reuters, referring to a so-called conditional movement control order as coronavirus cases spike.

The palace will set new dates for the meetings with party leaders after the curbs were lifted, Ahmad Fadil said.

Should Anwar succeed in his bid to become prime minister, it would be the culmination of a 22-year long quest, which included nearly 10 years in jail on sodomy charges he denied. It would also mean Malaysia would have its third prime minister this year.

Anwar told a news conference on Monday he had presented documents to the king to prove he had the support of more than 120 members of the 222-seat parliament.

The palace later said Anwar had submitted the number of lawmakers that he said supported him but had not identified them.

The king plays a largely ceremonial role but he can appoint a prime minister who in his view is likely to command a majority.

In February, at the height of wrangling that saw the collapse of the administration of veteran leader Mahathir Mohamad, the king appointed Muhyiddin prime minister after consulting every member of parliament.

Muhyiddin has a two-seat parliamentary majority and critics say he came to power through shifting alliances and not earning it at the ballot box.

Malaysia reported 660 new coronavirus cases and four deaths on Tuesday, raising its tally to 16,880 cases and 163 fatalities.

(Reporting by Joseph Sipalan; Editing by Michael Perry, Robert Birsel)

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