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Muhyiddin calls for stability as Anwar claims majority

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Malaysia's Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin urged people to reject moves to destabilise the country, after opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim said he has the backing of a majority of lawmakers to form a government.

[KUALA LUMPUR] Malaysia's Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin urged people to reject moves to destabilise the country, after opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim said he has the backing of a majority of lawmakers to form a government.

Mr Anwar's assertion should be proven through due process, and until then, the current administration stands firm and Mr Muhyiddin remains the legitimate prime minister, Mr Muhyiddin said in a statement. Parties including those in the Barisan Nasional as well as the Pan-Malaysian Islamic Party signed a joint statement to reaffirm support for the premier.

"I urge the people to reject the rash actions of some politicians who deliberately want to disrupt the political stability and the country's economic recovery plan," Mr Muhyiddin said in a speech announcing RM10 billion (S$3.28 billion) of additional stimulus measures on Wednesday.

Mr Anwar earlier said the current government has fallen as he has gathered "a strong, formidable majority," adding that he would soon have an audience with the king. "We need a strong, stable government to run this country and to save the country," he said in a press conference.

Mr Anwar wouldn't say how many lawmakers his government would command, but said it was "convincing." He said it would be inclusive of all races and religions, and there's no urgency to hold elections.

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Lawmakers from both sides of the aisle had been calling for early polls recently to settle months of political uncertainty after Mr Muhyiddin took power with a razor-thin majority earlier this year. Mr Muhyiddin has said he may hold a snap election sooner if his coalition wins the Sabah polls this Saturday, where he's currently campaigning.

"Right now it's a war of words," said Bridget Welsh, honorary research associate at the Asia Research Institute, University of Nottingham Malaysia. "We're entering into another period of intense negotiation and fluidity in the political situation in Malaysia, and it hasn't really stopped since February."

Mr Anwar was set to meet the king on Tuesday, before the meeting was postponed as the monarch went for treatment at the National Heart Institute, according to Mr Anwar's prepared statement. He's set to meet the king after the latter has recovered.

The benchmark FTSE Bursa Malaysia KLCI Index extended declines after the announcement to slide 0.6 per cent to 1,496.48, the lowest close since Sept 10. The ringgit weakened 0.5 per cent to RM4.1547 a dollar.

"Internal politics in Malaysia remain messy, but are unlikely to affect economic policies," said Mingze Wu, a currency trader at StoneX Group in Singapore. "However runaway weakness in the ringgit can trigger strict capital controls which will jeopardize foreign investment already within Malaysian shores. That said, there's really not much risk of this happening right now." Mr Anwar's statement is set to push Malaysia into another round of political turmoil after the country already underwent two shock government changes in recent years. The Barisan Nasional coalition was defeated at the 2018 general election after decades of unbroken rule, only to return to power in late February when ruling lawmakers defected.

Tension over Mr Anwar's long-awaited claim to the premiership had partly contributed to the power struggle in February. Then-prime minister Mahathir Mohamad refused to commit to a timeline to hand over power to Mr Anwar as promised, before abruptly resigning and leaving a power vacuum in his wake. Dr Mahathir's newly formed party hasn't been included in Mr Anwar's tally of lawmakers supporting him.

Mr Muhyiddin is unlikely to easily give up power, Ms Welsh added. "I think he can learn the lesson from Dr Mahathir: don't resign."

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