Malaysian parties call for polls, reject unity coalition

Foreign Desk Report

KUALA LUMPUR: Four Malaysian parties on Tuesday rejected veteran leader Mahathir Mohamad’s proposal for a unity government that could have strengthened his grip, calling instead for an election to end the political turmoil after he quit as prime minister.
The world’s oldest government leader at 94, Mahathir stepped down on Monday, shattering a fragile and increasingly unpopular coalition that had ruled since a 2018 election.
But the king immediately appointed Mahathir as interim prime minister with full authority until a new government is formed.
Mahathir proposed the idea of a grand coalition at meetings on Tuesday with leaders of major political parties, including his one-time rival and alliance partner Anwar Ibrahim and the four parties they defeated in the 2018 election.
But those parties, led by the former ruling United Malays National Organisation (UMNO), said they wanted a new election in the Southeast Asian country of 32 million people. “Let the people decide,” UMNO member Annuar Musa told a news conference.
A unity government could have given Mahathir even greater authority than during a previous spell as prime minister from 1981 until his retirement in 2003, during which he is credited with turning a farming backwater into an industrial nation. His political comeback came with the 2018 election defeat of then premier Najib Razak’s UMNO, amid accusations of widespread corruption.