Malaysia’s New Prime Minister May Be Chosen Through WhatsApp

Malaysia’s lawmakers must submit their choice of a new prime minister to the palace by 4 p.m. local time Wednesday, as the nation’s king begins the search for a successor to Muhyiddin Yassin, who resigned Monday.

Lawmakers were reminded to keep the contents of their declaration letters a secret until the king decides which MP commands the support of the majority, according to a notice sent to members of parliament by Speaker Azhar Azizan Harun. Lawmakers may email, fax or WhatsApp their choice of premier, he added.

Opposition MP Ong Kian Ming still openly stated he would back Anwar Ibrahim as prime minister, after getting queried on Twitter. Ong is a member of the Democratic Action Party, the nation’s largest political party by number of parliament seats.

The development has echoes of last year, when Muhyiddin was appointed after Mahathir Mohamad’s abrupt resignation left the country without a prime minister for a week. Rather than holding a parliament sitting, the monarch spent several days interviewing lawmakers at his palace to gauge their support, leading to shifting alliances and a flurry of statutory declarations that both launched and ultimately ended Muhyiddin’s brief stint as premier.

The method is legal as the constitution allows for the king to exercise his opinion on who likely commands the majority, said Oh Ei Sun, senior fellow at the Singapore Institute of International Affairs.

“But if you want to improve transparency, the future government would have to push through a constitution amendment making it more explicit as to how to determine the majority which a prime minister enjoys,” he said.

Unity Government

Even so, this time around some political parties indicated their willingness to set aside their differences to form a more inclusive government. This was after the king met with party leaders on Tuesday, where he reminded them of the importance of staying united to fight the Covid outbreak and revive the economy, according to Anwar.

“We each gave our view but there appeared to be an understanding, a consensus to end our old, tiring, boring politics,” said Anwar after their audience with the monarch.

Leaders from the opposition Pakatan Harapan coalition, the United Malays National Organisation, the Pan-Malaysian Islamic Party, Mahathir’s Pejuang party and Muhyiddin’s Bersatu party were present at the meeting, according to Anwar.

Muhyiddin and his cabinet resigned after more than 17 months in power, fueling a crisis of leadership in a country beset by a weakened economy and a surge in Covid cases. He will stay on as a caretaker prime minister until a successor is named.

“I hope all political parties can accept the king’s call to compromise and together form a unity government in order to deal with the pandemic and manage the people’s welfare, thus lowering the political temperature in the country,” UMNO Youth leader Asyraf Wajdi Dusuki wrote on Facebook.

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

BQ Install

Bloomberg Quint

Add BloombergQuint App to Home screen.