Malaysian King speaks to MPs one by one to see who has support of majority in Parliament

Sultan Abdullah Ri’ayatuddin is meeting the MPs before making a decision on the post of prime minister and the formation of a new government. It is the first time a Malaysian King has ever conducted such interviews. PHOTO: AFP

KUALA LUMPUR - Malaysia's King Sultan Abdullah Ri'ayatuddin is interviewing all MPs on Tuesday (Feb 25) and Wednesday, before making a decision on the post of prime minister and the formation of a new government.

"I hope we will find the best solution for our country," King Abdullah told reporters before distributing lunch to those camped outside the palace gates.

This is the first time in history a Malaysian King has ever conducted such interviews.

The move is to ascertain "who in the King's judgment is likely to command the confidence of the majority of the House," Comptroller of the Royal Household Ahmad Fadil Shamsuddin said in a special briefing to the media.

Each of the 221 MPs - minus interim prime minister Mahathir Mohamad - will be given between two and three minutes each, starting at 2.30pm on Tuesday, said Datuk Ahmad.

The interviews are witnessed by Chief Secretary to the government Zuki Mohd Ali.

Parti Islam SeMalaysia (PAS) secretary-general Datuk Takiyuddin Hassan said that MPs are given a questionnaire asking the MPs who should be Prime Minister, and if Parliament should be dissolved.

"We did tell Agong, the best way Tuanku, is use your prerogative power, dissolve Parliament. He did not suggest any names. He just wanted to hear from us," he told The Straits Times.

Ninety MPs will be interviewed on Tuesday and the rest on Wednesday. Tuesday's session is expected to end at around 7pm.

"The King wants to do this in a transparent manner. We will share (information) so that the media does not speculate," said Mr Ahmad.

Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (PPBM) supreme council member Wan Saiful Wan Jan said: "The country's political turmoil needs to be resolved right away... When the King meets with the MPs, I hope they will reiterate their support towards Tun Mahathir like they said recently. Tun Mahathir can appoint a new Cabinet which is more stable and better able to focus on the country's growth."

If all MPs support Tun Dr Mahathir, a "unity government" will be formed, and there will be no opposition, he added.

"Whatever form of government Dr Mahathir decides on, one thing is sure. The crooks, kleptocrats, the OKTs (those charged in court), and the generally corrupt are not welcome. This he made clear to his party at the Sunday meeting," said the PM's media advisor Kadir Jasin. "The rule of law, the high-profile trials and the reform agenda will continue," he said, in an apparent reference to the ongoing corruption and criminal breach of trust trials involving Umno leaders including former premier Najib Razak.

A flurry of meetings are in place on Tuesday as the country reels from Dr Mahathir's shocking resignation as prime minister on Monday. He resigned after two days of political manoeuvres which culminated in the collapse of the ruling Pakatan Harapan (PH) coalition. The King accepted his resignation but appointed the 94-year-old as interim prime minister.

PH is holding an emergency meeting on Tuesday night to discuss the political turmoil of the last two days.

Coalition partners Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR), Democratic Action Party (DAP) and Parti Amanah Negara are expected to discuss the developments after PPBM, the party which Dr Mahathir founded just before the 2018 general election, exited the coalition on Monday.

Its president Tan Sri Muhyiddin and 25 MPs quit the coalition, along with a group of 11 MPs from PKR, led by its former deputy president Azmin Ali. This leaves PH with 92 lawmakers, short of the 112 required majority in the 222-seat Parliament.

Opposition party Umno is also holding a meeting on Tuesday at its headquarters at the Putra World Trade Centre.

Najib's 1MDB-related trial has been adjourned for the day to allow the former premier to attend the party meeting and to meet with the King later Tuesday.

Selangor state leaders held a two-hour meeting with Selangor ruler Sultan Sharafuddin Idris Shah on Tuesday morning to assure him that the state government is stable.

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"Selangor is all good, there is no problem. The meeting (with the sultan) went smoothly," Selangor Parti Amanah Negara chairman Izham Hashim was quoted as saying by the Malaysiakini online news website. Selangor DAP chief Gobind Singh Deo was also at the meeting.

Chief Justice Tengku Maimun Tuan Mat and Attorney General Tommy Thomas were seen arriving at the National Palace on Tuesday at around 10.30am.

In the midst of the meetings on Tuesday, veteran politician Lim Kit Siang urged everyone to remember and respect the mandate of the people for a new Malaysia at the last general election on May 9, 2018.

In a statement, the DAP leader said he was shocked by the recent events and asked if these represented a betrayal of voters' trust.

The DAP, which has 42 lawmakers in Parliament, is now the largest of three parties left in the former ruling coalition.

On Tuesday, Dr Mahathir clocked in for work at the Prime Minister's Office in Putrajaya, marking his first day as interim prime minister.

Amid questions over how long Dr Mahathir will remain as caretaker premier, AG Thomas said there is no time limit to the post of an interim PM.

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