KUALA LUMPUR (Reuters) – Malaysia’s King Al-Sultan Abdullah Sultan Ahmad Shah takes the spotlight as he ponders his vote on who will be the country’s next prime minister after an election saw no party win a majority in parliament and the legislature Coalition talks had failed.
Al-Sultan Abdullah said on Tuesday he would be choosing between opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim and former Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin “soon” after neither politician was able to garner enough support for a coalition after Saturday’s elections.
It is the third time in just over two years that the king has chosen a prime minister – although this is the first time after an election.
WHO IS MALAYSIA’S KING?
King Al-Sultan Abdullah Sultan Ahmad Shah ascended the throne in 2019 at the age of 59, becoming Malaysia’s 16th monarch since independence from Britain in 1957.
Malaysia has a unique constitutional monarchy in which kings are elected alternately from the royal families of nine states, each ruling for a five-year term.
Silver-haired, bespectacled Al-Sultan Abdullah became king after the previous king’s sudden abdication.
The ruler of Pahang state on Malaysia’s east coast, King Al-Sultan Abdullah, gained popularity for his down-to-earth image early in his reign after he was seen queuing at Kentucky Fried Chicken and helping victims of accidents on a highway.
Al-Sultan Abdullah is a keen sportsman who represented his state in football matches when he was young. 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 usually determine who becomes prime minister in Malaysia under a parliamentary system.
But the constitution gives him the power to appoint a prime minister, who he believes can win a majority of lawmakers.
Malaysia’s kings have rarely used this power, but political instability over the past two years has prompted the monarch to elect a prime minister.
The monarchy has played a more influential role since 2020 amid the demise of the once-dominant alliance Barisan Nasional and its leading party, the United Malays National Organization (UMNO).
Barisan had led every government since gaining independence from British colonial rule in 1957 until her electoral defeat in 2018. She was voted out after a multi-billion dollar scandal at sovereign wealth fund 1MDB.
IS THIS PRE-OCCURRENT?
Yes. King Al-Sultan Abdullah has appointed two former 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 amid coalition power struggles.
Al-Sultan Abdullah took the unusual step of meeting with all of the country’s 222 lawmakers following Mahathir’s resignation to determine who had the majority to form a new government, eventually selecting former Mahathir ally Muhyiddin Yassin.
Less than a year later, after Muhyiddin’s own coalition broke up, the king asked lawmakers to each submit a letter detailing who they backed for prime minister and decided to nominate the next prime minister – Ismail Sabri Yaakob, who until the most recent elections in power.
WHAT HAPPENS NEXT?
The king met with Anwar and Muhyiddin on Tuesday.
Muhyiddin said the king had suggested that he and Anwar should form a “unity government” together, but he had not agreed.
The king has summoned 30 lawmakers from the Barisan Nasional Alliance to meet on Wednesday to determine who will become prime minister.
Barisan recorded his worst election result on Saturday but plays a crucial role in forming a government as his support for both Anwar and Muhyiddin is needed to win the majority.
Whoever is appointed prime minister is likely to face more of the political turmoil that has plagued the country in recent years.
Reporting by Mei Mei Chu; writing by Kay Johnson; Edited by Bernadette Baum
Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.