PUTRAJAYA: The Malaysian Parliament will sit on Mar 2 to determine the next prime minister, Dr Mahathir Mohamad said on Thursday (Feb 27), as no candidate is commanding a clear majority at the moment.
Speaking at a press conference after launching a RM20 billion (US$4.74 billion) economic stimulus package to mitigate the impacts of COVID-19, the interim prime minister said snap polls could be called if the House fails to arrive at a decision after the special parliamentary session.
“(The Malaysian king) said he cannot find anybody with a distinct majority … He said the right forum will be the parliament,” Dr Mahathir said after being summoned to the palace earlier in the day.
“The Dewan Rakyat (Lower House) will be called on the 2nd of next month in order to determine who gets the majority support to become the next prime minister,” he added.
King Abdullah Ri’ayatuddin Al-Mustafa Billah Shah had on Tuesday and Wednesday summoned all members of parliament (MP) to the palace to declare their choice of candidate for prime minister, after Dr Mahathir tendered his resignation on Monday.
Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (Bersatu), which pulled out of the ruling Pakatan Harapan (PH) coalition, had initially backed Dr Mahathir to continue as prime minister.
The remaining three PH component parties, meanwhile, said they will back Mr Anwar Ibrahim, president of Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR).
On the other hand, the United Malays National Organisation (UMNO) and Parti Islam Se-Malaysia (PAS) have called for parliament to be dissolved to pave the way for fresh polls.
Dr Mahathir said in a televised address on Wednesday that he would prefer a non-partisan unity government - an idea rejected by PH, UMNO and PAS.
“If the Dewan Rakyat fails to find a person with the majority, then we will have to go for snap elections,” Dr Mahathir said on Thursday.
The Malaysian parliament has 222 seats.
PH has 92 federal lawmakers, comprising 42 from Democratic Action Party, 39 from PKR and 11 from Parti Amanah Negara.
Eleven MPs from PKR had quit the party and PH on Monday.
The Barisan Nasional coalition has 42 MPs while PAS has 18.
Bersatu, meanwhile, has 26 seats.
Dr Mahathir said he would not hold on to the post if he is not named as the preferred candidate in the special parliamentary session.
"Whoever wins, I will accept," he said.
On the possibility of Bersatu president Muhyiddin Yassin becoming a candidate, Dr Mahathir said: "If everyone chooses him I am okay."
Later in the evening, Malaysian media quoted a Bersatu politician as saying that Bersatu and Mr Azmin Ali-led splinter group from PKR would back Mr Muhyiddin as the next prime minister.
"Yes, we are supporting Muhyiddin. This includes the 11 independents from Azmin’s bloc," Mr Redzuan Yusof said, according to the Malaysian Insight.