Malaysia’s King Al-Sultan Abdullah said on Tuesday that he will pick the next prime minister soon after the leading two contenders failed to win a majority, as the political crisis from an inconclusive election dragged on for a third day.
Saturday’s election in Malaysia resulted in an unprecedented hung parliament, with neither opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim nor former premier Muhyiddin Yassin winning the simple majority needed to form a government.
The election prolongs the already insatiable political state in the Southeast Asian nation, which has had three prime ministers in three years, the political turmoil risks delays to policy decisions needed to galvanise an economic recovery.
The king had given political parties until 2 pm (06:00 GMT) on Tuesday to put together alliances needed for a majority. But the incumbent Barisan Nasional coalition said it would not support either candidate, a move that prevented both Anwar and Muhyiddin from reaching a majority. The palace invited Anwar and Muhyiddin for an audience with the king at 16:30 local time (08:30 GMT).
It is now up to the constitutional monarch, who plays a largely ceremonial role but can appoint whoever he believes will command a majority. The king expressed the need to come to a conclusion, and asked Malaysians to accept any decision about the government formation.
The uncertainty hit the Kuala Lumpur stock market, which fell for a second day on Tuesday. Significant election gains by an Islamist party added to investors’ fears, notably over policies on gambling and alcohol consumption.
Electoral gains by an Islamist party have also raised fears in multicultural Malaysia, which has significant ethnic Chinese and ethnic Indian minorities following other faiths, while the PAS Islamist party has advocated for sharia law. Malaysian police cautioned the country’s social media users to refrain from posting “provocative” content on race and religion after the divisive election.
The decline of the once-dominant Barisan and its leading party, the United Malays National Organisation (UMNO), has ushered in a new uncertain phase in Malaysia. Barisan led every government since independence from British colonial rule in 1957 up until its first defeat in the 2018 election. It returned to power under Ismail in 2021 after the collapse of two coalitions from infighting.
Anwar’s progressive coalition and Muhyiddin’s conservative Malay Muslim alliance, which includes the Islamist party, have both said they have majority support, though they did not identify their backers.
It is likely that a minority government may be formed or the king could ask to meet with lawmakers individually to hear their choices for prime minister.
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