The prospect of an early election loomed as Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob said he could propose a date for the dissolution of Parliament during a regular meeting with the Yang di-Pertuan Agong today.
An election is not due until mid-2023, but Ismail has been under pressure from some factions of Umno to hold the vote earlier for a stronger mandate and due to infighting.
If he dissolves Parliament soon, the election would come just as the economy starts to feel the pinch of rising costs and a global slowdown. It would also coincide with the year-end monsoon season and floods, which could hurt voter turnout.
Ismail met the Agong at Istana Negara at 4pm and left about 45 minutes later.
His office and the palace did not have an immediate comment on what happened at the meeting.
Before the meeting, Ismail said he would mainly discuss Cabinet matters with Sultan Abdullah Sultan Ahmad Shah, and that a date for dissolution would be submitted only if there was time.
"Still unsure whether it will be brought up. If it takes too long to discuss Cabinet issues, it will be about Cabinet only," Ismail said.
The prime minister's spokesman had said earlier that the meeting between the two was a "routine", weekly meeting.
Ismail's government is set to present its 2023 budget in Parliament tomorrow, putting to rest some speculation that a dissolution could be announced before that.
An election must be held within 60 days of dissolution.
Malaysia is a constitutional monarchy and the king typically acts on the prime minister's advice. But the king does have certain discretionary powers, including withholding consent for the dissolution of parliament.
Last week, Ismail's party Umno, which is the biggest in the ruling coalition, said the prime minister would seek the king's consent to dissolve Parliament this year, prompting speculation that Ismail could call polls any day.
However, Ismail's coalition is not unanimous on the timing of an election.
Many alliance partners have cited economic woes, such as the rising cost of living and the anticipated year-end floods, as reasons not to hold polls this year.
Malaysia was hit late last year by unusually heavy rain and floods that caused damage of about RM6 billion.
Some Cabinet members wrote to the Agong this week, asking him not to hold the election this year due to flood risks.