KUALA LUMPUR - Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob has dissolved Malaysia's Parliament, he announced in a special television address on Monday, paving the way for snap polls nearly a year ahead of the deadline for a general election.
"I had an audience with the Yang di-Pertuan Agong yesterday afternoon," said Datuk Seri Ismail.
"He has consented to dissolving Parliament on Monday in accordance to Article 40 (2)(b) and Article 55(2) of the Federal Constitution."
"With this announcement, the mandate will be returned to the people," he added.
Two hours after Mr Ismail's announcement, the Palace issued a statement expressing Sultan Abdullah Ahmad Shah's "disappointment at current political developments" that left "His Majesty with no choice but to assent" to Parliament's dissolution so that the mandate can be returned to the public to "elect a stable government".
"Therefore, His Majesty expresses his hope that the Election Commission conducts the 15th General Election soonest taking into consideration the northeastern monsoon that is forecast to begin in mid-November 2022," said the statement.
The premier's announcement comes after more than a week of growing pressure from party colleagues loyal to Umno president Zahid Hamidi, who have made known their desire for a vote to be held as soon as possible since the beginning of this year.
The dissolution was widely expected to happen this week, especially after the Premier met Sultan Abdullah Ahmad Shah at least twice between Thursday and Sunday evening before the King flew to London for a week.
Malaysia's constitutional monarch has absolute discretion on whether to consent to a request to dissolve the legislature, after which voters must go to the ballot within 60 days.
An election is expected by early November, to avoid clashing with the year-end monsoon that has resulted in devastating floods in previous years.
Last year's floods killed 54 and caused RM6 billion (S$1.9 billion) in losses, with as many as 60,000 at evacuation centres at its peak.
On Sunday, Sultan Abdullah cautioned Malaysians to "brace themselves and make preparations to face possible weather phenomena".
The environment and water ministry, drainage and irrigation department and meteorological services had briefed the ruler on the year-end monsoon at his request on Thursday.
The Straits Times has learnt that both the Umno leadership and that of the Barisan Nasional coalition it leads are set to meet on Monday and Tuesday night, respectively, giving them a head start on preparations for a campaign that no other major alliance appears ready for. The Umno leadership on Monday night proposed to hold the General Election by mid-November.
Main opposition pact Pakatan Harapan (PH) are finalising their candidates and manifesto only on Oct 29, while Perikatan Nasional (PN) - the largest bloc in Mr Ismail's loose and awkward governing coalition - were up to last week lobbying the palace not to dissolve Parliament until the monsoon passes early next year.
The six state governments currently controlled by PH and PN have so far said they would not follow suit if the federal legislature is dissolved, and will hold state elections only next year, ahead of the Sept 2023 deadline.
This means that only three Umno-controlled states - Pahang, Perlis and Perak - will hold state elections at the same time as the parliamentary election.
Although Zahid's camp insist that an election should be held while their opponents are in disarray, which resulted in landslide wins at the Melaka and Johor state polls in the past year, critics accuse the Umno chief of wanting to force a political change in hopes of influencing his ongoing graft trial that is likely to see a verdict early next year.
Former premier Najib Razak was jailed in August after losing his final appeal against a conviction related to the 1MDB scandal that cost taxpayers billions of ringgit.