Malaysian parliament to vote on new PM amid crisis

Malaysia's parliament will vote Monday on the country's next prime minister in a bid to end a political crisis, but if no candidate has enough support there will be a snap election, Mahathir Mohamad said.

It was the latest twist in a drama triggered when Mahathir quit as premier and the government collapsed following a failed attempt to form a new ruling coalition without his designated successor, Anwar Ibrahim.

Anwar and Mahathir, at 94 the world's oldest leader, are now locked in a power struggle, reviving a rivalry that has loomed over politics in the Southeast Asian nation for two decades.

The king appoints the prime minister and had interviewed the country's MPs to work out who they backed, but Mahathir said no candidate with enough support emerged.

A candidate must have the backing of at least 112 MPs to become premier.

The king "says that the right forum will be parliament," said Mahathir on Thursday, following a morning meeting with the monarch.

He added the legislature would sit on Monday to determine who has sufficient backing to become premier.

"However if the (parliament) fails to find a person with a majority, then we will have to go for a snap election," added Mahathir, who was appointed interim leader following his resignation.

Mahathir initially appeared to have strong support to remain as premier and had announced he wanted to form a government of national unity, and was willing to return as leader.

Three parties from the former ruling coalition have already put Anwar's name forward to be premier.

However Mahathir's idea of a unity government was rejected by leaders across the political spectrum, with some expressing concerns that Mahathir would have too much power as he would be able to handpick all Cabinet ministers.

- Stormy history -

He changed tack Thursday with a surprise announcement that his Bersatu party might nominate his ally Muhyiddin Yassin, who was interior minister until the government collapsed, as a candidate.

"If everybody chooses him, I'm okay," said Mahathir.

Bersatu member Redzuan Yusof said the party would "100 percent" back Muhyiddin as prime minister, news portal Malaysiakini reported.

The drama began at the weekend when some MPs from the then ruling "Pact of Hope" coalition, which stormed to a historic victory in 2018, sought to join opposition groups and form a new government.

The move appeared aimed at pushing Anwar and his allies out of government, and stopping him becoming premier. Mahathir had pledged to eventually hand power to his old foe.

Mahathir and Anwar's stormy history has shaped Malaysian politics ever since Mahathir -- during a first stint in office in the 1990s -- sacked Anwar as his deputy, and he was jailed on dubious sodomy charges.

They reconciled ahead of the 2018 polls to oust a corruption-plagued coalition led by Najib Razak, who was accused of plundering state investment fund 1MDB.

Billions of dollars were looted from the fund and spent on everything from a super-yacht to pricey artworks.