File/AFP

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysian opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim had a long-awaited meeting with the king, seeking to prove he has support to take power and fulfil a decades-old ambition of becoming premier.

The Southeast Asian nation has been in turmoil since a reformist government headed by Mahathir Mohamad – which included Anwar – collapsed in February amid bitter infighting.

Muhyiddin Yassin became premier without an election, but his coalition’s support is shaky and critics accuse it of lacking legitimacy.

In a shock announcement last month, Anwar said he had garnered sufficient backing from lawmakers to topple Muhyiddin but the king, who appoints the prime minister, delayed meeting him due to ill health.

Anwar, a long-time opposition leader previously jailed for years after being convicted of sodomy, has sought to become premier for more than two decades and was viewed as Malaysia’s leader-in-waiting until his government’s collapse.

The 73-year-old finally met the king, Sultan Abdullah Sultan Ahmad Shah, for 25 minutes at the national palace Tuesday.

Anwar said he had presented documents showing he has the backing at least 120 lawmakers and the monarch will summon leaders of different political parties to assess his claim.

A prime minister must command the support of at least half of Malaysia’s 221 MPs.

“We leave it to the wisdom of his majesty to make a decision that will be in the best interest of our nation,” Anwar said.

But a palace statement cast doubt on Anwar’s claim, saying the opposition chief told the king the number of MPs supporting him but failed to provide a list of names.

Since Anwar’s announcement last month, doubts have swirled about whether he really has enough support.

A leading figure in Muhyiddin’s coalition has claimed many MPs in the government support Anwar — but a number of lawmakers have also come out to deny backing him.

In addition, Muhyiddin strengthened his position last month when his allies won key elections in eastern Sabah state.

Some analysts believe a change of government or general election is unlikely in the near future as Malaysia battles a coronavirus surge.