Malaysia’s wait for PM continues for fourth day on election crisis

KUALA LUMPUR — The wait for a new Malaysian prime minister (PM) entered its fourth day on Wednesday, after the leading two contenders failed to secure enough support for a majority and break a hung parliament after last weekend’s election.

Malaysia’s king will pick the new premier, after opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim and former premier Muhyiddin Yassin missed his Tuesday afternoon deadline to put together an alliance with other parties to form a government.

The fallout from Saturday’s election prolongs political instability in the Southeast Asian nation, which has had three prime ministers in as many years, and risks delays to policy decisions needed to spur an economic recovery.

King Al-Sultan Abdullah is expected to meet with lawmakers from the incumbent Barisan Nasional coalition individually from 10:30 a.m. (2:30 a.m. GMT) on Wednesday to help him determine who will be prime minister.

The constitutional monarch plays a largely ceremonial role but can appoint a premier he believes will command a majority in parliament.

Mr. Anwar’s coalition won the most seats in the Saturday election with 82, while Mr. Muhyiddin’s bloc won 73. They need 112 — a simple majority — to form a government.

Barisan won only 30 seats — its worst electoral performance since independence in 1957 — but support from its lawmakers will be crucial for both Mr. Anwar and Mr. Muhyiddin to get to 112. Barisan said it would not align with either coalition on Tuesday.

Mr. Muhyiddin said he had declined the King’s suggestion for the two rivals to work together to form a “unity government.” Mr. Muhyiddin runs a Malay Muslim conservative alliance, while Mr. Anwar runs a multiethnic coalition.

Mr. Muhyiddin’s bloc includes an Islamist party whose electoral gains have raised fears in Malaysia, which has significant ethnic Chinese and ethnic Indian minorities following other faiths. It has also spooked investors amid worries over the Islamist party’s potential impact on national policies. 

Malaysian police this week cautioned the country’s social media users to refrain from posting “provocative” content on race and religion after the divisive election. — Reuters