KUALA LUMPUR -- Malaysia's parliamentary opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim says he will meet the country's king next Tuesday to prove he has the support of a majority of lawmakers, doubling down on his attempt to topple Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin.
In a statement on Thursday, Anwar, 73, said King Sultan Abdullah Ri'ayatuddin had summoned him for an audience.
"At the meeting, I will present documentation of the strong and convincing majority of MPs as I mentioned earlier," said Anwar, a longtime prime minister hopeful. For now, Anwar called on Malaysians to remain calm and protect their health, as well as adhere to the government's movement restriction procedures amid a troubling wave of COVID-19 infections.
Anwar would need the backing of a minimum of 112 lower house members to form a government as the country's ninth prime minister.
Last month, his abrupt announcement that he now commands a "formidable, strong and convincing" parliamentary majority sent shock waves through the country, further destabilizing Muhyiddin's shaky government even without showing any evidence.
At last count, the Muhyiddin-led National Alliance had the support of 114 MPs, a razor-thin majority. Anwar controlled 91 via the Alliance of Hope, comprising his People's Justice Party, the Democratic Action Party and the National Honest Party. Former premier Mahathir Mohamad has about 15 MPs in his corner, including independents and lawmakers from the Sabah Heritage Party.
Anwar has been fighting for the country's top job for the past 22 years and was twice considered Mahathir's heir apparent.
But Mahathir in 1998 sacked Anwar as his deputy over allegations of corruption and sodomy, for which he was jailed from April 1999 to 2004. Muslim-majority Malaysia criminalizes homosexuality and offenders can be imprisoned for up to 20 years, as well as whipped.
Anwar was charged again in July 2008 for alleged sodomy involving a personal aide and was sentenced to five years. He and his supporters insist all his legal troubles stemmed from a political vendetta.
Mahathir and Anwar appeared to bury the hatchet when they teamed up to defeat Najib Razak in the May 2018 election, ending the 61-year rule of the National Front. Anwar was soon released on a full pardon by the king, while Mahathir became prime minister for the second time.
Anwar was expected to eventually take over, but Mahathir resigned earlier this year following an internal coup by a Muhyiddin-led faction. Ties between Mahathir and Anwar have been on a roller coaster ever since.
While Anwar has long been perceived as a leader-in-waiting, there are also questions about the breadth of his support in Malaysia, where many conservative Muslims consider him to be very liberal.