All eyes on Malaysia’s king to resolve election stalemate as uncertainty drags out

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KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia’s next prime minister will be chosen by the monarch, the nation’s king said on Tuesday, after an election held last weekend failed to produce a clear winner and the ruler’s proposal for the leading contenders to work together was turned down.

Malaysia is facing a hung parliament for the first time in its history following divisive polls on Saturday that produced no outright winner but saw around 14.7 million Malaysians, almost 74 percent of the 21 million eligible voters, cast their ballots.

Opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim’s reformist alliance, Pakatan Harapan, topped the race with 82 out of 222 parliamentary seats, while the Malay-centric Perikatan Nasional led by former Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin had unexpectedly won 73 seats. With both falling far short of reaching the 112 needed for a simple majority, they have been locked in a battle to form a government.

Uncertainties deepened on Tuesday after the long-ruling Barisan Nasional alliance led by the UMNO party refused to support any bloc and said it would remain as the opposition. It is now up to Malaysia’s King Sultan Abdullah Sultan Ahmad Shah, who said the crisis must end, to appoint the country’s next premier.

“We need to march forward for this beloved nation,” the king told reporters outside the national palace ahead of a meeting with Anwar and Muhyiddin in an effort to resolve the impasse. “Let me make a decision soon.”

He also asked Malaysians to be patient and accept any decision about the government formation.

Anwar told reporters after the talks that the king had expressed his desire “to form a strong government that is more inclusive in terms of race, religion, or region that would be able to allow the government to focus on resolving the problems of the (people) and to resuscitate our economy.”

The monarch plays a largely ceremonial role in Malaysia, but can appoint whoever he believes will command a majority.

Muhyiddin later said that the king had requested Perikatan Nasional and Anwar’s Pakatan Harapan “to form a unity government.”

He added: “But we had already discussed earlier, we will not work together with PH, that has always been our party stance.”

Malaysia has been in a spate of political uncertainty in recent years, having had three prime ministers since the previous election in 2018, amid economic doubts and fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic.

With no resolution to the post-election crisis, the king has summoned lawmakers from the Barisan Nasional alliance, which won 30 parliamentary seats, for a meeting on Wednesday.

Despite the election stalemate, BN grassroots member Asyraf Adlan said that the group should remain as opposition.

“All that BN has left right now are its principles and its integrity,” Adlan told Arab News. “Voters have rejected us and we should respect their mandate.”

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