Mahathir Mohamad resigns creating uncertainty over the political future of Malaysia.

World Sergey Matyunin 24-Feb-2020
Mahathir Mohamad
ID 141156349 © Abdul Razak Abdul Latif | Dreamstime.com

Mahathir Mohamad, Malaysia’s prime minister, has submitted his resignation to the monarch. Mr Mahathir also resigned as chairman of his party, Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (Bersatu).

This puts the ruling coalition into trouble and creates uncertainty over the political future of the south-east Asian country.

According to Malaysia’s constitution, the monarch must appoint a prime minister who has secured a majority of the 222-seat parliament.

If the king accepts Mr Mahathir’s resignation, it would mark the end of the political career of one of the longest serving leaders in south-east Asia. However, it remains unclear whether Mr Mahathir, who served his first term as prime minister from 1981 to 2003, will ultimately retire or whether the move is a political manoeuvre.

Muhyiddin Yassin, Bersatu’s president, said in a Facebook post on Monday that the party would leave the ruling coalition. Eleven MPs also quit Mr Anwar’s People’s Justice Party (PKR) — which had been the alliance’s largest — to form an independent unit, jeopardising the coalition’s majority.

Members of opposition parties including United Malays National Organisation, Parti Islam Se Malaysia (PAS) as well as Bersatu and a group of PKR members led by Mohamed Azmin Ali, the economic affairs minister, met late on Sunday for dinner at the Sheraton Petaling Jaya Hotel.

The meeting, which was widely reported on local media, was largely interpreted as an effort to form a new coalition that would oust Mr Anwar. Mr Azmin, who is deemed the leader of an anti-Anwar faction within his party, is among the 11 PKR defectors.

Lim Guan Eng, Malaysia’s finance minister, said in a statement that Pakatan Harapan’s presidential council would hold an emergency meeting on Monday night, at which the Democratic Action party — of which Mr Lim is a member — would call for Mr Mahathir to continue as prime minister.

“DAP condemns the treachery of some PH leaders and MPs that attempted to form a back-door government to replace the existing democratically elected PH government with a new coalition,” added Mr Lim.

Mr Mahathir made one of the greatest political comebacks in 2018 after he defected from Umno, the former ruling party that had led Malaysia for 61 years, and recast himself as a reformer. Together with Mr Anwar, he toppled Najib Razak, the then prime minister and Umno stalwart, who is accused of involvement in the multibillion-dollar 1MDB embezzlement scandal. Mr Najib, who is standing trial on charges relating to the 1MDB fraud, maintains his innocence.

Mr Anwar was Mr Mahathir’s deputy prime minister and heir apparent in 1998 when he was arrested and beaten by the country’s police chief. He was convicted of sodomy and corruption and placed in solitary confinement. The sodomy charge was eventually overturned but the controversy sidelined Mr Anwar from politics for about a decade.