Malaysian opposition leader probed over bid to become prime minister

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Malaysian opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim speaks to media after leaving the police headquarters in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, Friday, Oct. 16, 2020.

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia’s opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim was questioned by police on Friday over a list of lawmakers reportedly supporting his bid to oust the government of Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin.

Anwar was summoned after complaints were lodged against him about the list of 121 lawmakers, from Malaysia's 222-member parliament, that made the rounds on social media after his meeting with the king on Tuesday. During his royal audience, Anwar reportedly claimed to have enough support to form a new government.

He appeared at the Bukit Aman police headquarters at about 2 p.m. and was accompanied by his legal counsel, Ramkarpal Singh. He addressed reporters three hours later, alleging that the probe was a “malicious” attempt to force him to reveal his supporters’ identities.

"It is clearly malicious, political harassment and clearly from my understanding there is a clear political instruction to the police,” he told the media, saying that he had never made the names of his backers public.

“I have met with party leaders to obtain their letters of support and these documents are to be presented to the king ... It's between me and his highness,” he said.

Anwar’s Pakatan Harapan (Alliance of Hope) won the 2018 elections but it collapsed when Muhyiddin withdrew his party from the coalition, prompting then-prime minister Mahathir Mohamad to resign in protest.

Muhyiddin was appointed prime minister by the king and took office on March 1, following Mahathir's resignation days earlier.

According to constitutional lawyer Lim Wei Jiet, Anwar’s chances to assume power will depend on the king's decision. But, so far, there has been no comment from the palace about Anwar’s claims to have majority support.

“Alternatively a vote of no confidence can be sought in parliament and, if it is successful, Muhyiddin has the option of resigning to allow the king to appoint another person as the PM. This is perhaps where Anwar can again offer himself as a candidate,” he said.

Several lawmakers from the ruling coalition and the opposition have sought a vote of no confidence against Muhyiddin to be debated in early November, when parliament sessions resume. The motion may, however, be thwarted by Parliament Speaker Azhar Azizan Harun, who is aligned with the prime minister.

“It is unlikely that such a motion will be debated and voted upon the coming parliament sitting,” Lim said.

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