PETALING JAYA (THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - Speculation that political change in Kedah is imminent has intensified after the state's monarch Yang di-Pertuan Agong Tuanku Abdul Halim Mu'adzam Shah granted an audience to Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak on Wednesday (Jan 27) morning.
The position of Datuk Seri Mukhriz Mahathir - the son of former prime minister Mahathir Mohamad and Mr Najib's harshest critic - as Kedah's Menteri Besar (MB) has been in doubt since last week, after a group of Umno leaders said they wanted him out.
The black Perdana limousine of Mr Najib, who is also Umno president, was seen entering the Palace gates shortly before 8am. Putrajaya sources said that the royal audience could not be the usual pre-Cabinet briefing for the King as there was no Cabinet meeting on Wednesday.
All ministers and MPs are in Parliament for a special sitting on the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA).
Sources said that the outcome of the audience with the King would be announced later as royal consent to a change of MB, if any, would be validated by an official notification which would be conveyed to the Regency Council in Alor Setar.
In other words, the green light on a new MB will come from the King and not from the Regency Council.
It is a foregone conclusion that Mr Mukhriz will be removed as MB, with his likely replacement deputy Kedah Umno chief Ahmad Bashah Md Hanipah.
The Regency Council, in an extremely rare move, issued a press release on Tuesday denying any role in the ongoing political crisis.
The statement stressed that it was non-partisan and that its council members were neutral and had not shown any bias.
It is understood that certain members of the Regency Council were upset over media reports that it had requested for more than one name to consider as the replacement MB. One media report had also claimed that the Palace was opposed to changing the MB.
Meanwhile, Mr Mukhriz had his usual Wednesday audience with the Regency Council before heading back to Wisma Darulaman shortly before noon for the weekly state exco meeting.
It is learnt that only three state exco members turned up. They were Datuk Aminuddin Omar, Datuk Suraya Yaacob and Datuk Norsabrina Mohd Noor.