Malaysian opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim had a long-awaited meeting with the king Tuesday, seeking to prove he has support to take power and fulfil a decades-old ambition of becoming premier.

The Southeast Asian nation has been in turmoil since a reformist government headed by Mahathir Mohamad — which included Anwar — collapsed in February amid bitter infighting.

Muhyiddin Yassin became premier without an election, but his coalition’s support is shaky and critics accuse it of lacking legitimacy.

In a shock announcement last month, Anwar said he had garnered sufficient backing from lawmakers to topple Muhyiddin but the king, who appoints the prime minister, delayed meeting him due to ill health.

Anwar, a long-time opposition leader who spent years in jail after being convicted of sodomy, has sought to become premier for more than two decades and was viewed as Malaysia’s leader-in-waiting until his government’s collapse.

The 73-year-old spent around an hour inside the national palace in Kuala Lumpur to meet the king, Sultan Abdullah Sultan Ahmad Shah, and then left in a car without addressing journalists outside.

He is due to hold a press conference later Tuesday.

A candidate to be prime minister must prove to the monarch he commands the support of a majority of Malaysia’s 221 MPs.

It is not clear whether Anwar has enough backing, however, with some MPs rumoured to be supporting him having denied it.

In addition, Muhyiddin strengthened his position last month when his allies won key elections in eastern Sabah state.

Some analysts also believe a change of government or general election is unlikely in the near future as Malaysia battles a coronavirus surge.

James Chin, a Malaysia expert at the University of Tasmania, said Tuesday’s meeting was only the first move in a potentially long fight for Anwar. 

“There is a process to becoming the prime minister… the first step is that Anwar has to convince the king he’s got the numbers,” he told AFP.

sr/mtp

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