Malaysia's PM secures leadership in key state after election win
KUALA LUMPUR (Reuters) - Malaysian Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin won out in negotiations on the candidate to lead a key state on Monday, after winning a weekend election that was seen as a litmus test of his leadership amid a fresh challenge for his post.
Muhyiddin's ruling coalition narrowly won Saturday's electoral contest in Sabah state, in what was widely seen as a referendum on his seven-month-old administration and just days after opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim declared he had a "formidable" majority in parliament to oust the premier.
But questions linger over Muhyiddin's grip on power, especially amid signs of an increasingly tenuous alliance with former ruling party UMNO threatening his already razor-thin parliamentary majority.
Muhyiddin's Saturday win was almost immediately tested by UMNO, which wanted their candidate named as chief minister. Both sides eventually agreed to name Hajiji Noor, from Muhyiddin's Bersatu party, after two days of marathon meetings.
At the federal level, UMNO had said last week that some of its lawmakers now wanted to support Anwar as premier.
Anwar, in turn, has to convince King Sultan Abdullah that he has the numbers to form a government. The palace is expected to issue a statement on Monday, but officials did not say what it would be about.
"While Muhyiddin is PM and leader of the ruling coalition, it is UMNO which commands the most seats," said Shazwan Mustafa Kamal, senior associate at political consultancy Vriens & Partners.
"The Sabah result, if anything has failed to provide any clarity or closure over Malaysia's political impasse as the tug-of-war involving lawmakers' support of both the ruling government as well as the opposition continue."
Muhyiddin rose to power in March after forming an alliance with opposition parties, including UMNO. Allies have pressured him to seek early polls to secure a strong mandate.
But cracks in his federal coalition began showing in July, when UMNO declared it was pulling some of its support for Muhyiddin after its former leader and premier Najib Razak was sentenced to jail over the 1MDB scandal.
(Editing by Ed Davies)
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