26th February, 2020
Anwar Ibrahim’s name has been nominated as the next Malaysian prime minister by his supporters after the shock resignation of his alliance partner and on-off rival, Mahathir Mohamad, members of Anwar’s party said on Wednesday.
The struggle between Mahathir, 94, and Anwar, 72, who formed a surprise pact to win a 2018 election, has shaped politics in the Southeast Asian country for more than two decades and is at the root of the latest turmoil.
Mahathir, the world’s oldest head of government, resigned on Monday but was immediately named by the king as interim prime minister with full powers.
To try to end the crisis, the king has been meeting all 222 elected members of parliament over two days. Those in the meetings said they were asked to name their favoured prime minister or whether they wanted fresh elections.
The members of Anwar’s Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR), or the People’s Justice Party, said that his name had been submitted to the king. The party has 39 seats and alliance partners could potentially give it another 62.
Anwar did not comment on whether or not he had been nominated.
“God willing, everything goes well,” he told reporters after meeting the king. “The discretion is the prerogative of the king. So I will leave it entirely to his discretion and wisdom.”
While some politicians have openly voiced support for Mahathir to stay in office, it was not clear whether enough of them would give him their backing at the meetings with the king to allow him to stay on.
The volatile relationship between Anwar and Mahathir helped prompt the latest crisis after Mahathir resisted pressure to set a date for a promised transfer of power to Anwar made ahead of the 2018 election.
As well as personal relationships, politics in Malaysia is shaped by a tangle of ethnic and religious interests. The largely Muslim country of 32 million is more than half ethnic Malay, but has large ethnic Chinese, Indian and other minorities.
In meetings with political leaders, Mahathir on Tuesday proposed a unity government cutting across party lines that could have given him greater authority than during a spell as prime minister from 1981 until his retirement in 2003.
But the idea was rejected on Tuesday by an alliance of four parties including the United Malays National Organisation (UMNO), which ruled Malaysia for six decades until being defeated by Mahathir’s coalition in 2018.
The four parties said they had told the king they wanted a new election instead.
Anwar was Mahathir’s deputy and a rising political star when Mahathir was prime minister the first time but they fell out.
Anwar was arrested and jailed in the late 1990s for sodomy and corruption, charges that he and his supporters maintain were aimed at ending his political career.
State of the Parties in Malaysia:
There are 222 seats in the lower house of parliament, with 112 needed for a majority.
FORMER RULING PAKATAN HARAPAN COALITION
* Democratic Action Party (DAP) – 42 seats
Draws the bulk of its support from Malaysia’s ethnic Chinese community.
* Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) – 39 seats
Led by Anwar Ibrahim, 72, the on-off ally and rival of Mahathir. Ahead of the election, Mahathir had promised to eventually hand him power, but no date had been set.
* Parti Amanah Negara (Amanah) – 11 seats
A moderate Islamist party.
* Parti Warisan Sabah (Warisan) – 9 seats
From the state of Sabah on Borneo island.
FACTIONS THAT LEFT PAKATAN COALITION AFTER MAHATHIR QUIT
* Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (Bersatu) – 26 seats
A Malay nationalist party founded by Mahathir ahead of the 2018 election.
* Faction led by Mohamed Azmin Ali – 11 seats
Faction that broke away from Anwar’s Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR).
BARISAN NASIONAL GROUP DEFEATED IN 2018 ELECTION
* United Malays National Organization (UMNO) – 39 seats
Malay nationalist party that ruled Malaysia for six decades until its defeat under Najib Razak in 2018 by Mahathir, its former leader.
* Malaysian Chinese Association (MCA) – 2 seat
* Malaysian Indian Congress – 1 seat
* Pan-Malaysian Islamic Party (PAS) – 18 seats
Malaysia’s main Islamist party has pushed for national implementation of Islamic sharia law.
* Gabungan Parti Sarawak (GPS) – 18 seats
Represents interests of Sarawak on Borneo island.
* Gabungan Bersatu Sabah (GBS) – 3 seats
Represents interests of Sabah on Borneo island.
* Parti Sarawak Bersatu – 1 seat
* United Progressive People of Kinabalu Organization – 1 seat
* Independent – 1 seat