Pledging billions to address coronavirus impact, Mahathir says Malaysian parliament to decide next prime minister – dpa international

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KUALA LUMPUR — Malaysia’s interim prime minister Mahathir Mohamad said on Thursday that the country’s parliament will reconvene next week to settle who will run the next government, with elections possible if lawmakers cannot decide.

“If the Dewan Rakyat (parliament) fails to find anyone with a majority we will have to go to a snap election,” he added. 112 seats are needed for a majority.

Mahathir teamed with long-time rival Anwar Ibrahim to win Malaysia’s last elections in 2018, agreeing to hand the leadership to Anwar by May 2020. But Mahathir later stalled on the promise, leading to renewed rivalry between the two.

Three parties have backed Anwar’s bid to be prime minister, after previously working under Mahathir as part of the government that fell on Monday. With two major opposition parties calling for elections, Mahathir could struggle to regain the premiership.

“At this moment I don’t have the power to form a cabinet,” Mahathir said. “Whoever wins I will accept.”

Malaysia’s king has been meeting members of parliament over the past two days to try find out what faction might be able to form a government after Mahathir, 94, unexpectedly quit on Monday.

“The result is he cannot find anybody with a distinct majority, he says the right forum would be the parliament, so the Dewan Rakyat [parliament] will be called on the second of next month,” Mahathir said, speaking at Malaysia’s central bank after pledging 20 billion ringgit (4.75 billion dollars) to offset the local economic impacts of the China-US trade war and the coronavirus outbreak.

Slowdowns in outbound tourism and domestic manufacturing in China, the world’s second-biggest economy, have prompted widespread predictions of plummeting economic growth in most South-east Asian countries, Malaysia included. The economic proposals include tax breaks for tourism businesses and reduced charges for airport vendors.

Malaysia has seen 22 confirmed cases of the virus, including one US citizen who flew to Malaysia after she was among 1,455 cruise ship passengers who docked in Cambodia after being denied entry to five countries. 20 of the 22, the US woman included, have since recovered.

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