Malaysia PoliticsMalaysian opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim speaks to media after leaving the police headquarters in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, Friday, Oct. 16, 2020. Anwar was questioned by police over the dissemination of a purported list of lawmakers supporting his bid to oust the government. (AP Photo/Vincent Thian)
KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AP) — Malaysian opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim was grilled by police on Thursday over his bid to oust the government, in what he called “political harassment" to thwart his attempt.
Anwar met the nation’s king on Tuesday to show evidence that he has majority support in Parliament to form a new government and unseat Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin, who has only a thin two-seat majority in the house.
Police summoned Anwar to give a statement Thursday after 113 complaints were lodged over a purported list of 121 lawmakers allegedly backing Anwar that has spread on social media.
Anwar, 73, told reporters outside police headquarters that six cases were being investigated against him under the penal code covering statements of public mischief and a multimedia law on the improper use of network facilities to harass someone.
But he said police questions were focused on digging out the identities of the lawmakers supporting him, likely at the instruction of the government.
“It is clearly malicious, it is clearly a political harassment," he said. “This is clearly a political ploy to harass me at this critical juncture.”
Anwar has claimed he has more than 120 lawmakers backing him but has refused to name them, amid allegations that Muhyiddin's camp might seek to lure them back with bribes.
Anwar said the matter was between him and King Sultan Abdullah Sultan Ahmad Shah, and told police he won't reveal the names of the lawmakers.
He said the complaints were lodged by some individuals and parties in Muhyiddin's government. Police didn't disclose the nature of the complaints. It is unclear where the list shared on social media originated. Some lawmakers on the list denied supporting Anwar.
Anwar has said the king will meet leaders of political parties to verify his claim. But the political tussle is likely to drag on because the king has postponed the meetings due to restrictions imposed in Kuala Lumpur this week because of a surge in coronavirus cases.
The monarch on Thursday advised political leaders to “avoid plunging the country into another political crisis” during the pandemic. In a statement, he urged politicians to settle their dispute through negotiations and under legal processes based on the constitution.
Muhyiddin, who took power in March after causing the collapse of Anwar’s reformist alliance, has previously dismissed Anwar’s claim of having secured the support of a majority of lawmakers to unseat him. He said he would leave it to the king to decide but faced increasing pressure this week.
After Anwar's audience with the king, the key ally in Muhyiddin's ruling coalition threatened to withdraw support for the government amid anger over being sidelined despite being the biggest party.
Several lawmakers, both in the ruling coalition and the opposition, have also sought a vote of no confidence against Muhyiddin when Parliament resumes Nov. 2. But the motion may be thwarted by the house speaker, who is aligned with the prime minister.
Anwar’s Alliance of Hope won elections in 2018 but collapsed after Muhyiddin withdrew his party and joined with the opposition to form a Malay-centric government in March. Then-Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad resigned in protest, saying he wouldn’t work with parties accused of corruption that he ousted in the 2018 polls.
If Anwar succeeds, it would mark a dramatic comeback after his roller-coaster political journey since the 1990s.