KUALA LUMPUR -- Malaysia's monarch on Friday blocked the plan presented by interim Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad for a parliamentary vote to choose a new prime minister.
In a statement, Comptroller of the Royal Family & Household Ahmad Fadil Shamsuddin, Malaysia's King Sultan Abdullah Ri'ayatuddin's secretary, said leaders of political parties would be summoned again to meet the monarch to propose a prime ministerial candidate.
The National Palace will reengage with the political parties' leaders, after the King was unable to arrive at a candidate who commands majority support in the Lower House through private interviews with the 222 lawmakers.
"His Majesty will continue his efforts to secure a resolution in line with the Federal Constitution for the well-being of the people and country, which we love," the secretary said.
The Council of Malay rulers, led by a rotating king and eight sultans, convened on Friday in a special meeting to resolve the political stalemate.
Earlier in the day, the Lower House speaker Mohamad Ariff Yusof rejected Mahathir's call for a special sitting on March 2, citing that the written request did not meet the necessary requirements.
In a statement, Mohamad said such a request should come from the King and not Mahathir. A date for the special session will be announced later.
Pakatan Harapan, or the Alliance of Hope, in a statement, hailed the King's decision to re-engage the party leaders, which according to them is in line with the federal constitution. The coalition had initially objected to Mahathir's unity government and parliament vote proposals.
The alliance, which governed until Mahathir Mohamad's sudden resignation on Monday, also believes that the alliance has received the largest number of nominations from the Members of Parliament to be the next prime minister.
"The presidential council believes that Anwar Ibrahim should be given the opportunity to stand before His Majesty to prove the confidence of the majority of the Members of Parliament on him," the coalition said.
Meanwhile, Mahathir-led Bersatu released a statement endorsing party president Muhyiddin Yassin as a prime ministerial candidate. Mahathir is the chairman of the party, which has withdrawn from the former ruling coalition Pakatan Harapan, or the Alliance of Hope, now led by Anwar Ibrahim.
According to Bersatu secretary-general Marzuki Yahya, 36 Bersatu lawmakers have expressed support for Muhyiddin to be the country's eighth prime minister. Until Thursday, Bersatu had 26 lawmakers. Azmin and his supporters, who were sacked by PKR on Monday, joined Bersatu on Friday.
The opposition alliance, led by the United Malays National Organization, insisted on a fresh election and dismissed Mahathir's call as "unconstitutional, improper in accordance to procedures, and disrespectful to the [monarch]."
Mahathir told reporters on Thursday that the king could not find a leader who can command a majority of voices in Malaysian Parliament, even after holding an audience with all 222 of its members. He also suggested a snap poll as a last resort if a vote of confidence in the Parliament on Monday failed to find a breakthrough.
Ninety-four-year-old Mahathir, acting as interim leader, has offered himself as a candidate to lead a nonpartisan government comprising lawmakers from both the ruling and opposition coalitions, as well as unelected professionals. Such an arrangement would go against the mandate given by the electorate to the Alliance of Hope in the May 9, 2018 election. With the absence of an opposition, it may also give the prime minister absolute power, contradicting the democratic parliamentary system.
If an election is called, all political parties will probably scramble for support as none of them would be able to secure a simple majority of 112 seats in Parliament as a result of defections on Sunday by ruling alliance lawmakers. There is also a question of whether the Election Commission is ready to oversee a poll as it faces structural issues including the registration of new voters after the voting age was lowered to 18 from 21 last year.