Anwar stakes claim but palace says no list of MPs' names

Opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim met the Malaysian King yesterday and gave him the total number of lawmakers whom he claimed supported him to be the next prime minister, but did not give their names to verify his claim, said the palace.

“During the audience which lasted 25 minutes, Datuk Seri Anwar had presented the total number of Lower House MPs whom he claimed supported him,” palace comptroller Datuk Ahmad Fadil Shamsuddin said in a statement.

“However, he did not present a list of the MPs’ names to support his claim. Therefore, Sultan Abdullah (Ri’ayatuddin) has advised Anwar to follow and respect the legal process as stated in the federal Constitution,” he said.

The meeting at Istana Negara (national palace) followed the Sept 23 shock announcement by Mr Anwar that he had the majority to form a new government.

The announcement came seven months after the collapse of the Pakatan Harapan government in late February, which was led by Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad.

The ruler managed to meet him only yesterday after he was hospitalised for 12 days due to food poisoning and a sports injury.

Following the royal audience, Datuk Seri Anwar, 73, told a news conference that he has the support of more than 120 MPs in the 222-member Parliament, enough to form the next government.

“I have presented a list of a convincing majority of Members of Parliament who support me to His Majesty,” Mr Anwar said.

“With these documents, it is abundantly clear that we have registered a formidable convincing majority among parliamentarians.”

He added that it would be “appropriate” for Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin, who is also 73, to step down after losing his majority in Parliament.

The ruler is expected to make a decision in the coming days on whether Mr Anwar has the “formidable” backing as he claimed, based on the evidence submitted to him, and after meeting political party leaders.

Mr Anwar urged Malaysians to give space to Sultan Abdullah, 61, to exercise his discretion, study the documents and consult party leaders.

“Today is not the day of victory, or a day of loss for anyone,” Mr Anwar said.

A few hours after the Anwar meeting, Sultan Abdullah met Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah, 83, chairman of Umno’s board of advisers.

With its 39 MPs, Umno is the biggest backer of the government of Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin.

Mr Anwar’s Sept 23 claim of having majority support in Parliament had been given immediate credence by Umno’s president Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, who said on that same day that he knew of “many” Umno and Barisan Nasional MPs who support Mr Anwar.

The monarch is slated to meet the leader of opposition Democratic Action Party (DAP) today. The DAP has the single largest bloc of MPs in the House with 42 lawmakers.

Mr Anwar would need a minimum of 112 MPs to claim majority.

Tan Sri Muhyiddin’s Perikatan Nasional is widely held to have a razor-thin majority of 113 lawmakers.

The three-party Pakatan Harapan coalition that Mr Anwar leads currently has 91 MPs – 38 lawmakers from his Parti Keadilan Rakyat, 42 from the DAP and 11 from Parti Amanah Negara.

Dr Mahathir, 95, issued a one-minute video that he is not endorsing any individual as prime minister, in a rebuff to Mr Anwar. Dr Mahathir said that his new party, Pejuang – with five opposition MPs – remains independent.

Mr Muhyiddin yesterday held a Facebook Live session for an hour with local media, saying he is focused on fighting Covid-19 and the struggling economy, not the palace meeting. He is on home quarantine, after a Cabinet minister was found to be Covid-19 positive.

Asked to comment on the King-Anwar meeting, Mr Muhyiddin said: “I don’t want to comment on what Anwar did at the palace. I leave it to the best judgment of the Agong (King); he has his own way of doing things as provided by the Constitution,” the Premier said, referring to Sultan Abdullah.

“When he (Mr Anwar) was there at the palace, I was here (at home) in front of the television having a video conference with the members of the National Security Council to discuss the Covid-19 issue.

“My interest now is in managing Covid-19 and the economy.”

Mr Anwar’s decision not to give Sultan Abdullah his list of 120 MPs set Malaysia abuzz yesterday, with some questioning whether he really has the support of enough parliamentarians to form the next government.

Said Mr Wan Saiful Wan Jan, information chief of Mr Muhyiddin’s Bersatu party: “If this is the kind of desperate strategy that he wants to use, then I suggest that he just retire from politics and let other leaders take over the role of opposition leader, so that it can be a constructive opposition.”

Reflecting the current concern of the government about a third wave of Covid-19 infections, the palace in its statement said the King is worried about the pandemic that has led the greater Kuala Lumpur area to be placed under movement curbs for two weeks from midnight.

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