dpa

Mahathir Mohamad (centre) celebrates his election win with leaders of the victorious Pakatan Harapan coalition, including Muhyiddin Yassin, after a 2.30am May 10 2018 press conference in Kuala Lumpur (Simon Roughneen)

Interim Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad said late on Saturday that he has parliamentary support sufficient to enable him to continue as premier, contradicting a statement by King Abdullah that rival Muhyiddin Yassin “was the MP who is likely to secure the majority support.”

In the latest twist to a frenetic week of intrigue and alliance-shifting, Mahathir published a list of 114 parliamentarians he said support him continuing in the job, two more than the majority needed to form a government.

Muhyiddin is scheduled to be sworn in as Malaysia’s next prime minister at 10:30 am (0230 GMT) on Sunday, but Mahathir said he hopes the king “will accept my letter (with the 114 names) and explanation.”

Malaysia’s constitution stipulates that the king may nominate a prime minister if he deems any candidate “likely to command the confidence of the majority of the MPs” – which in practice usually means the leader of the winning side in parliamentary elections.

Muhyiddin’s backers also claimed on Saturday to have 114 lawmakers on their side, a tally that Mahathir says mistakenly includes six of his supporters. The king did not outline any numbers in his statement appointing Muhyiddin.

“We are not calling into dispute the statement made by the king,” said Fahmi Fadzil, a spokesperson for one of the parties backing Mahathir’s bid, speaking on Malaysian television. Other lawmakers have said they will not try to prevent the inauguration, but would gather in public on Sunday as a further demonstration of their numbers.

Soon after the announcement nominating Muhyiddin, #NotMyPM was trending on local social media, while several hundred people staged a protest at Dataran Merdeka, or Independence Square, a landmark in Malaysia’s biggest city, Kuala Lumpur.

The late night drama came after a week-long power struggle during which Mahathir unexpectedly resigned as prime minister on Monday.

Mahathir had been challenged by his successor-designate Anwar Ibrahim to name a date to hand over power, but was also pressured by his own Bersatu party to form a new government that would exclude Anwar.

Mahathir was then named interim prime minister and pitched the prospect of a national unity government, which in turn was widely rejected by parties.

Muhyiddin emerged from within Mahathir’s Bersatu party as a prime ministerial candidate on Friday, prompting a Saturday morning reformation of the Mahathir-Anwar alliance in an attempt to prevent Muhyiddin taking power and bringing the United Malays National Organisation (UMNO) back into government.

UMNO was defeated by the alliance of Mahathir and Anwar’s parties in 2018 elections. Former UMNO leader and prime minister Najib Razak is on trial on charges of looting hundreds of millions of dollars from a state fund.

Shortly after the king’s announcement on Saturday, Najib posted a statement on his Facebook, issuing “congratulations” to Muhyiddin as “the 8th Prime Minister of Malaysia.”

Muhyiddin was fired as deputy prime minister by Najib in 2015 for criticizing the government when the corruption allegations emerged.

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