May 18, 2020 / 5:53 AM / 10 days ago

Malaysia's king upholds PM's appointment as opposition mounts challenge

KUALA LUMPUR (Reuters) - Malaysia’s king on Monday said the appointment of Muhyiddin Yassin as prime minister during turmoil this year was proper and constitutional, days after parliament put off a vote on an opposition challenge to his leadership.

Malaysia's King Sultan Abdullah Sultan Ahmad Shah receives documents from Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin during the welcoming ceremony at the Parliament House in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia Malaysia May 18, 2020. Malaysia Information Department/Nazri Rapaai/Handout via REUTERS

Muhyiddin’s appointment on March 1, at the end of a week of political wrangling that led to the collapse of the ruling coalition, has been challenged by the opposition who say it was not clear that Muhyiddin had majority support from among the 222 members of parliament’s lower house, the Dewan Rakyat.

The lower house speaker had initially approved a motion tabled by Muhyiddin’s 94-year-old predecessor, Mahathir Mohamad, seeking a vote of no confidence in Muhyiddin, but the vote was postponed indefinitely after the government shortened Monday’s meeting, only allowing time for the royal address.

“Surely, every contest will have a conclusion. The country’s political wrangling could not be allowed to fester without any end,” King Sultan Abdullah Sultan Ahmad Shah said in his address broadcast live on national television.

“Hence ... in line with provisions under the Federal Constitution, I found that Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin had the majority support of members of the Dewan Rakyat and was qualified to be appointed as the eighth prime minister,” the king said, using Muhyiddin’s honorifics.

The king’s role is largely ceremonial and it is unlikely his endorsement of Muhyiddin’s appointment would have any sway over a vote in parliament on his leadership.

Monday’s one-day meeting was the first time parliament convened this year. Its next session is scheduled for July 13 to Aug. 27.

In February, the veteran prime minister Mahathir resigned from his second stint in the job when his coalition collapsed.

Muhyiddin, who had served as home minister under Mahathir, was unexpectedly sworn in on March 1 as the head of a government formed with the support of the old ruling party, that was tainted by corruption accusations and defeated by a multi-ethnic coalition in the last general election in 2018.

Muhyiddin has focused on managing the health and economic crisis caused by the novel coronavirus.

Malaysia, which imposed curbs on movement and business since mid-March, has reported 6,894 cases of the virus and 113 deaths.

Reporting by Joseph Sipalan

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