Malaysia’s king on Friday said he will let party leaders nominate prime ministerial candidates, shifting the battle for power after Opposition parties switched their allegiance from interim leader Mahathir Mohamad to a seasoned politician from his party.
Mr. Mahathir, 94, who is seeking to return as Prime Minister for a third time after his ruling alliance collapsed this week, suffered double blows after the king rejected his call for a vote in Parliament to elect a new leader and his supporters threw their support behind the president of his Bersatu party, Muhyiddin Yassin.
Muhyiddin, 72, is a long-time politician who served under the previous ruling coalition but quit to help Mr. Mahathir form Bersatu in 2016 amid anger over a massive graft scandal involving a state investment fund.
Muhyiddin led Bersatu to ditch the alliance on Monday in a bid to form a new government with several Opposition parties without Mahathir’s designated successor, Anwar Ibrahim, breaking apart the ruling alliance.
But the plan flopped after Mr. Mahathir quit in protest of the plan to work with the United Malays National Organization, the party of disgraced former Prime Minister Najib Razak.
The astonishing twist comes after the palace confirmed in a statement that the king, Sultan Abdullah Sultan Ahmad Shah, had been unable to find a candidate with majority support to form a government after interviewing all 222 lawmakers.
The palace refused to side with Mr. Mahathir, who said on Thursday the king would let the lower house of Parliament vote next on Monday to elect a new Prime Minister and that snap elections would be called if there were an impasse.