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Malaysian premier warns against undermining king in call for elections

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PURTA JAYA: Malaysian Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob cautioned against usurping the king’s authority, as pressure mounts within his party for him to call for a general election soon.

Ismail told reporters on Thursday that parliament’s dissolution — a precursor to a nationwide vote — was under the king’s authority and must be discussed with the monarch first.

“If we determine our own date, the king would say we took over his power,” he said, speaking at the party’s headquarters. “We will wait,” Ismail added his party had yet to discuss the matter internally.

Buoyed by landslide wins in recent state elections, leaders in Ismail’s ruling United Malays National Organisation have called on the government to bring forward the general election that’s due July next year. 

“When the mood is with us in the local elections, what else are we waiting for?” said UMNO President Ahmad Zahid Hamidi as he officiated the party’s annual general assembly on Friday. About 180 out of 190 UMNO divisions have agreed that the nationwide vote should happen before UMNO’s internal party polls that’s due in December, he added.

UMNO’s annual general assembly, which began Wednesday night and runs through Saturday, was dominated by debates on the general election. UMNO Deputy President Mohamad Hasan, in his policy speech Wednesday, said that “the time is now and not next year” to hold the nationwide vote. Any delays would allow the opposition to grow stronger, he added.

Ismail and opposition alliance Pakatan Harapan last year signed a memorandum of understanding on political stability, stipulating that parliament cannot be dissolved before July 31, 2022. Zahid said Friday he would leave it to the prime minister to decide whether to continue with the MoU.

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