Malaysian stocks rebound amid calmer political situation


Dr Mahathir is expected to be made the 8th Prime Minister, as apparently he has the most support from the 222 Members of Parliament. - AP

KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 25 (The Star/ANN): Malaysian stocks and currency rebounded Tuesday (Feb 25) morning after the King appointed former Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad as the interim PM to ease the political crisis.

At noon break, the key FTSE Bursa Malaysia KLCI (FBM KLCI) rose 10.67 points or 0.7% to 1,500.73. Bernama reported that the market was backed by institutional investors.

In the forex market, the local currency opened higher against the US dollar and traded at 4.2170/2220, from Monday’s lower close of 4.2240/2270. But against other currencies, the ringgit still posted losses.

“Despite the current political turmoil, Malaysia is still peaceful and there is no chaos. Nobody stocks up food. This is important for the country and investors, ” said an analyst.

Dr Mahathir, who had been pressured but declined to name a date this year to pass the premiership to designated successor Anwar Ibrahim within his (past) Pakatan Harapan coalition government, unexpectedly resigned Monday afternoon amid political speculations and analyses targeted at him.

But Dr Mahathir was appointed interim PM Monday night after he met with the King, who had accepted his resignation and his decision to dissolve the entire Cabinet.

From now on until the King appoints a new PM, Dr Mahathir will administer the country alone without a Cabinet.

Attorney-General Tommy Thomas told Malaysiakini news portal that Dr Mahathir can wield powers like a PM and appoint a new Cabinet. There is no time limit for an interim PM.

But while most people are still trying to understand the political chaos at the top, some political analysts say it represents a master manoeuvre by Dr Mahathir to stay on as top leader of the country. They see him as emerging to be more powerful.

“He will be made the next or 8th Prime Minister, as apparently he has gathered most support from the 222 Members of Parliament, ” said the leader of a political party.

The 94-year old politician became the 7th PM after he led a loose coalition of opposition parties to topple the previous government of Najib Razak, now being charged for corruption linked to 1MDB.

Dr Mahathir had ruled Malaysia for 22 years as the 4th PM from 1981 to 2003.

The latest development means that the past political agreement to allow Dr Mahathir to be premier for two years struck by him and his past coalition parties before the last general election in May 2018 is now void.

This is because after quitting as PM, Dr Mahathir also resigned from his political party Bersatu – a party within the (past) Pakatan coalition.

Meanwhile, many non-governmental organisations are calling openly for a fresh or snap general election to take place.

The 18-month rule of Mahathir and his just-dissolved Cabinet has failed to get a good report card. In a recent poll, Dr Mahathir as PM scored marks below 30%.

The political situation in Malaysia is not at all clear now as not many can read the mind of Dr Mahathir, an unrivalled master political strategist.

In addition, the King has a role to play in deciding the country's leader when the political situation warrants it. The Star/Asia News Network

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