Malaysia’s palace denies 'royal coup' in appointing new PM

FILE PHOTO: Malaysia’s Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin signs a document on his first day at the prime minister’s office in Putrajaya, Malaysia, March 2, 2020. Malaysia Information Department/Wazari Wazir/Handout via REUTERS

KUALA LUMPUR (Reuters) – Malaysia’s palace on Sunday denied allegations of a “royal coup” in appointing the country’s prime minister after veteran leader Mahathir Mohamad resigned, saying the king used his discretionary powers prescribed in the constitution.

The palace was responding to an editorial in the UK daily Guardian this week that said Malaysia’s king, Sultan Abdullah Sultan Ahmad Shah, had overturned a democratic election result by naming Muhyiddin Yassin as prime minister despite the opposite camp claiming a majority.

Muhyiddin was sworn in last Sunday as the head of a government formed with the support of a corruption-tarnished party that was defeated in the last general election in 2018 by a multi-ethnic group.

The palace said it went beyond its “call of obligation” by meeting all lawmakers and the leaders of various political parties before the king arrived at his decision that Muhyiddin was the person likely to command a majority in parliament.

“It was only after this rigorous and open process of consultation, fully in accordance with the Federal Constitution, that His Majesty exercised his discretion under the Federal Constitution to appoint a new Prime Minister,” the palace, Istana Negara, said in a statement.

“Hence, by no means can this process be regarded as a “royal coup” as questionably asserted by the Guardian…”

Muhyiddin is expected to unveil his cabinet early next week.

He has postponed the start of parliamentary proceedings by two months amid opposition efforts, spearheaded by the 94-year-old Mahathir, to challenge his government with a confidence vote.

Mahathir’s unexpected resignation as prime minister on Feb. 24, after his coalition collapsed amid a power battle, had plunged the Southeast Asian country into political turmoil.

Reporting by Mei Mei Chu, Krishna N. Das; Editing by Lincoln Feast.

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