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Malaysian lawmakers to submit PM choice amid political turmoil

  • >> Reuters
    Published: 2021-08-17 12:53:50 BdST

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Malaysia's members of cabinet pose for a picture after a meeting in Putrajaya, Malaysia August 16, 2021. Malaysia Information Department/Handout via Reuters

Malaysian lawmakers have been asked to submit a letter stating their choice of candidate to be the country's next prime minister, after Muhyiddin Yassin stepped down this week, deepening a long-running political crisis.

Muhyiddin resigned on Monday without an obvious successor at a time when the Southeast Asian nation is battling a COVID-19 surge and economic slump. He cited a lack of parliamentary support and will remain as caretaker premier until a new government can be formed.

King Al-Sultan Abdullah has ruled out elections because of the pandemic, but said he would invoke his constitutional powers to appoint a prime minister he believes would be likely to command a majority.

In a notice sent to all lawmakers, parliament speaker Azhar Azizan Harun said the declaration letters have to be submitted to the palace by Wednesday at 4 pm (0800 GMT).

"In undertaking the King's decree, I am giving a notice to you to present one declaration letter that clearly states one lawmaker that has your confidence to become the 9th prime minister," the speaker said in the letter seen by Reuters.

He asked lawmakers to submit their letters via fax, email or the online messaging service WhatsApp, saying there would be no in-person submission at the palace due to COVID-19.

Last year, when then premier Mahathir Mohamad quit unexpectedly, the king met with all 222 lawmakers from the lower house of parliament to seek their choices for the next leader.

After a week of discussions, he picked Muhyiddin who had formed a coalition with political parties that were defeated in the 2018 elections.

But the alliance was fragile and the constant infighting led to Muhyiddin's resignation after just 17 months in office.

No lawmaker currently has a clear majority in parliament. The opposition bloc and Malaysia's biggest party are split on support for their prime ministerial candidates.

The king is expected to meet with leaders of political parties at 2 pm local time (0600 GMT), media reported.