Anwar’s turn?

Reports suggest that the King had sought assurances of support before agreeing to an audience, and the fact that he has granted one suggests Mr Anwar may have the numbers that he claims.

Malaysia’s fractious politics seem destined for another twist with opposition leader and former Deputy Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim claiming he has been granted an audience by the country’s monarch ~ and constitutional head ~ to evaluate his claim that a “substantial majority” of legislators support his bid for Prime Ministership.

Anwar, Malaysia, Anwar Ibrahim, Muhyiddun Yasin
(Image: Twitter/@anwaribrahim)

Reports suggest that the King had sought assurances of support before agreeing to an audience, and the fact that he has granted one suggests Mr Anwar may have the numbers that he claims. If so, this development will come as a severe setback to incumbent Prime Minister Muhyiddun Yasin, who came to power last March after a coalition led by Dr Mahathir Mohamed and formed with Mr Anwar’s support collapsed due to defections.

Under Malaysia’s Constitution, the King has absolute power to appoint as Prime Minister the person who he believes enjoys a majority in Parliament. Mr Ibrahim’s aides say the monarch is a meticulous person and would not have granted an audience without being reasonably certain that the claimant had the numbers.

While Mr Anwar has not spelt out whose support he enjoys and exactly how he has made up the numbers to claim a majority in the 222-member House, reports suggest his support has been in place since last month but could not be presented to the King because of the latter’s indisposition. While Mr Muhiyuddin had not reacted to the political developments, his ability to fight back to save his government has been affected because he was forced to quarantine himself after a Cabinet colleague tested positive for Covid-19.

Should the 73-year-old Mr Anwar succeed in proving his majority, the victory will be bittersweet. For he is a man many Malaysians believe should have been Prime Minister decades ago, and certainly after Dr Mahathir, under whom he served with considerable distinction as Deputy PM from 1993 to 1998.

Instead sharp differences erupted between the two men at the height of the Asian financial crisis, leading to Mr Anwar’s removal from office and subsequent arrest on multiple charges including sodomy. After fighting off legal challenges and prosecutions, Mr Anwar returned to active politics and agreed to support Dr Mahathir for interim Prime Ministership in 2018 on the condition that the office would later come to him.

But that did not happen, and the crafty nonagenarian stayed on as Prime Minister for nearly two years. While Dr Mahathir at 95 remains active in politics, his many efforts to return to power since March have been thwarted by potential allies who accuse him of going back on his word. Next week may well decide if his former deputy will finally head Malaysia’s government.

Statesman News Service

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