Malaysia’s Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad stepped down on Monday, as part of a move intended to form a new ruling coalition.
The prime minister’s office said in a statement that the 94-year-old leader tendered his resignation to the country’s monarch at 1 PM local time.
Mahathir’s nearly two-year-old ruling coalition has been embroiled in a succession battle over the past few weeks, bickering over when he will hand over power to his designated successor, Anwar Ibrahim.
Several members of the ruling coalition Pakatan Harapan, or Alliance of Hope, met on Sunday along with opposition parties to form a force that will deny Anwar, who known as a neoliberal pro-business politician, the opportunity.
The Mahathir-led Malaysian United Indigenous Party (Bersatu) left the ruling coalition, the party said in a statement.
Azmin Ali, seen by many as Mahathir’s actual favoured successor, told reporters that he and 10 other members of parliament have quit the Anwar-led People’s Justice Party (PKR) and, effectively, the Pakatan Harapan coalition itself, to form a “special bloc” in parliament, in opposition to Anwar Ibrahim.
This suggests a new ruling coalition might be voted in through the lower house.
After Mahathir submitted his resignation, Anwar told reporters: “I was there with Mahathir when he decided to resign. He couldn’t digest the fact that he is associated with working with the corrupts.”
Sources are conflicts about the cause of the rift, with some stating that Mahathir refused to hand power to Anwar Ibrahim, who is seen as being backed by mainly Chinese Malaysian business elites while other sources said Mahathir stepped down because he did not agree to the plan of his part Bersatu exiting the ruling coalition.
“I was with Mahathir earlier and Mahathir quit because he did not want to work with UMNO, which has corrupt individuals,” Malaysian finance minister Lim Guan Eng, from the mainly Chinese Malaysian dominated and neoliberal Democratic Action Party, said.
The United Malays National Organisation, the core party in the Barisan Nasional (National Front) coalition, that ruled Malaysia from independence in 1957 until Mahathir’s shock election win in May 2018, could possibly gain advantage from the rift in the Pakatan Harapan coalition. Reports state that UMNO has already met with the leadership of the Malaysian Islamic Party (PAS), which has a major foothold in the north of the country.
The Malaysian constitution prescribes that when a government that collapses less than three years into its legislature, political power temporarily reverts back to the sultans and the Yang di-Pertuan Agong (Supreme Head) of Malaysia, until a negotiated solution can be found or the Agong calls new elections.