KUALA LUMPUR - Malaysian Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob on Tuesday said it was his prerogative to decide when to dissolve Parliament to pave the way for a general election.
Datuk Seri Ismail's comments came on the same day his party, Umno, called hundreds of its leaders to a special meeting in order to ramp up the pressure on him to call for polls this year.
Mr Ismail said no political party should interfere in the dissolution of Parliament and the matter was ultimately up to him and the King, Sultan Abdullah Ahmad Shah - who needs to consent to any proposed push for an election.
"Some say it should be dissolved before the tabling of Budget 2023, some say it should be on Monday after the tabling, some say next month, some say next year, so much speculation. Let's just wait," Mr Ismail said after an event on Tuesday, just hours before he attended the special meeting organised by Umno.
The premier has been reluctant to call for early polls as he looks to consolidate his position within the party to enable him to retain premiership after Malaysia's next elections.
However, a faction of Umno leaders led by party president Ahmad Zahid Hamidi have been amping up the pressure for immediate elections.
On Tuesday, party leaders summoned all 191 Umno division leaders to a special closed-door meeting at the party headquarters with no explicit agenda.
This comes just after Umno's Supreme Council agreed on Sept 30 that Parliament should be dissolved soon to enable an election to be called this year.
Mr Isham Jalil, a Supreme Council member aligned to Zahid, claimed on Tuesday that Umno's top five leaders - including Mr Ismail, who is a party vice-president - had achieved a consensus on a proposed general election date during an hour-long meeting last Friday, before the Supreme Council meeting.
Mr Ismail is expected to have an audience with Sultan Abdullah on Thursday, presenting him with an opportunity to present any possible dissolution dates.
However, the meeting between the premier and the King could very well be limited to topics surrounding a federal budget that Mr Ismail's administration is scheduled to table on Friday.
Mr Ismail - the first premier who is not the chief of his own party - and Zahid have both been publicly tight-lipped about possible election dates. Zahid on Tuesday said that the meeting held on Friday "could be the last" before the election, while revealing that the party's negotiations for poll candidates will start as early as next Monday.
Mr Ismail also did not commit to a date when addressing party leaders on Tuesday, according to Sabah Umno chief Bung Mokhtar Radin.
Zahid's faction has been pushing for early polls after a series of electoral wins with November being the favoured month. But critics say the push is because Zahid and several other leaders are facing graft charges. Former premier Najib Razak has already been imprisoned after failing to overturn his graft convictions in late August.
However, the window for holding an election this year is closing. An election in December is not seen as a possibility due to the monsoon floods.
Opposition parties favour an election in 2023 citing the monsoon floods and the economic slump.
Malaysia's next general election is due by September 2023.