KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 22 (Reuters) – Malaysia’s King Al-Sultan Abdullah Sultan Ahmad Shah stands in the spotlight as he ponders who will be the country’s next prime minister after an election saw no party win a majority in parliament and the coalition had. calls failed.
Al-Sultan Abdullah said on Tuesday he would decide “soon” between opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim and former prime minister Muhyiddin Yassin after neither politician could garner enough support to form a coalition after Saturday’s election.
It will be the third time the king has chosen a prime minister in just over two years, although it is the first time this has happened after an election.
WHO IS THE KING OF MALAYSIA?
King Al-Sultan Abdullah Sultan Ahmad Shah ascended the throne in 2019 at the age of 59, becoming Malaysia’s 16th monarch since gaining independence from Britain in 1957.
Malaysia has a unique constitutional monarchy in which kings are elected in turn from the royal families of nine states, and each rules for a five-year term.
The silver-haired, bespectacled Al-Sultan Abdullah became king after the surprise abdication of the previous king.
King Al-Sultan Abdullah, the ruler of Pahang state in Malaysia’s east coast, gained popularity early in his reign for his down-to-earth image after waiting in line at Kentucky Fried Chicken and helping accident victims on a highway .
Al-Sultan Abdullah is an avid sportsman, who represented his state in football matches in his younger years. He was a member of the FIFA Executive Committee and president of the Asian Hockey Federation.
IS IT ALWAYS THE KING’S CHOICE?
No. Elections normally determine who becomes prime minister in Malaysia under a parliamentary system.
But the constitution does give him the power to appoint a prime minister whom he says can have a majority among lawmakers.
Malaysia’s kings have rarely used that power, but the political instability of the past two years has prompted the monarch to choose a prime minister.
The monarchy has played a more influential role since 2020 amid the decline of the once-dominant Barisan Nasional alliance and its leading party, the United Malays National Organization (UMNO).
Barisan had led every government since independence from British colonial rule in 1957 until the election defeat in 2018. He was voted out after a billion-dollar scandal at state fund 1MDB.
HAS THIS HAPPENED BEFORE?
Yes. King Al-Sultan Abdullah has appointed two previous prime ministers, although this is the first time this has happened after an election failed to produce a clear winner.
The King appointed Muhyiddin as Prime Minister in February 2020 when then Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad resigned due to power struggles in the coalition.
Al-Sultan Abdullah took the unusual step of meeting with all of the country’s 222 legislators after Mahathir’s resignation to determine who had the majority to form a new government, eventually choosing former Mahathir ally Muhyiddin Yassin.
Less than a year later, after Muhyiddin’s own coalition fell apart, the king asked lawmakers to each submit a letter on who they supported as prime minister and decided to nominate the next prime minister – Ismail Sabri Yaakob, who was in power until the recent elections.
WHAT HAPPENS NOW?
The king met with Anwar and Muhyiddin on Tuesday.
Muhyiddin said the king had suggested that he and Anwar form a “unity government” together, but he disagreed.
The king has convened 30 lawmakers from the Barisan Nasional alliance for a meeting on Wednesday to determine who will be prime minister.
Barisan posted his worst electoral performance on Saturday, but plays a vital role in government formation as both Anwar and Muhyiddin need his support to secure a majority.
Whoever is ultimately appointed prime minister will likely face more political turbulence as the country has plagued in recent years.
Reporting by Mei Mei Chu; Written by Kay Johnson; Edited by Bernadette Baum
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