Malaysia’s king says soon-to-be named PM must face confidence vote, warns against ‘winner takes all’ mentality
- New leader – expected to be named on Friday following a secret ballot – will face immediate test of his support in parliament
- Outgoing deputy prime minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob is thought to be the front runner to succeed Muhyiddin Yassin, as Anwar Ibrahim’s hopes fade
The royal statement from the office of Sultan Abdullah Sultan Ahmad Shah came hours before a 4pm deadline for the country’s 220 MPs to each submit a single nominee for prime minister.
The secret ballot will help the monarch make a decision on who is most likely to command the confidence of the country’s lower house of parliament, the Dewan Rakyat.
He is expected to make a final decision soon after he convenes a special meeting of the heads of the country’s nine royal households on Friday.
The outgoing deputy prime minister, Ismail Sabri Yaakob, is thought to be the front runner after his United Malays National Organisation (Umno) – with 38 MPs – and its allies closed ranks to back him to succeed Muhyiddin.
Much of Muhyiddin’s Perikatan Nasional alliance, made up of his own Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (PPBM), the hardline Islamist Parti Islam se-Malaysia and the ruling bloc in autonomously governed Sarawak, is expected to back Ismail Sabri.
As part of the deal, Muhyiddin’s right hand man and PPBM secretary general Hamzah Zainudin is in the running to be the deputy prime minister.
Muhyiddin, 74, was forced to step down after some Umno MPs quit his ruling alliance, citing a lack of confidence in his leadership during the Covid-19 crisis.
Malaysian Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin resigns after losing majority support in parliament
But with Umno now reportedly backing Ismail Sabri en masse, that is unlikely.
The National Palace on Wednesday said whoever was appointed prime minister must prove their majority in parliament.
This means the allegiance of each MP will be publicised. Last year, following a similar collapse of the then ruling alliance due to mass defections, Sultan Abdullah conducted a secret ballot that eventually led to him appointing Muhyiddin.
But the lack of transparency over the process and questions over whether MPs were truthful when they revealed their choice to the king plagued the Muhyiddin government, which was labelled “illegitimate” due to the manner in which it came into power.
In a parliamentary confidence vote, whether an MP backs the new prime minister will be made public – if a division is called on the vote.
Malaysia’s parliament is next scheduled to convene on September 6. If Sultan Abdullah were to swear in the new prime minister this weekend, that would leave a two-week window during which the new prime minister will govern without proving his majority legislative support.
The monarch and his deputy, Sultan Nazrin Shah of Perak, held talks with the leaders of the major political parties on Tuesday, ahead of the secret ballot deadline.
The king urged the political leaders to ensure that the “losing side” in the prime ministerial race would have opportunities to contribute to governing the country.
The result following the appointment of the country’s ninth prime minister should be one where “the winner does not win all, and the loser does not lose all”, the statement said.
Muhyiddin’s resignation on Monday brought to an end a tumultuous 17 months in office – the shortest prime ministerial stint in independent Malaysia’s history.
He came to power after he staged a political coup against Pakatan Harapan – shock victors of a 2018 election – citing the multiracial bloc’s neglect of the interests of the country’s Malay Muslims.
The country remains hard-hit by the Covid-19 crisis, with hospitals running near full capacity and daily cases trending at nearly 20,000 even amid a soaring vaccination rate.