Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, at 94 the world’s oldest leader, submitted his resignation to the king Monday after a bid by his allies to bring down the government and block the succession of leader-in-waiting Anwar Ibrahim.
The coalition would reportedly have excluded Anwar, Mahathir’s presumptive successor, and most of the lawmakers from his party, which would have stopped him becoming premier any time soon. Anwar and Mahathir have a notoriously stormy relationship but they reconciled ahead of the 2018 polls, and Mahathir has repeatedly promised to hand over power to his former foe.
The bid appeared to have fizzled out by early Monday, however — before Mahathir’s office announced he had “sent a resignation letter as prime minister of Malaysia” to the king at 1pm. Anwar was due to meet the king Monday afternoon. While the monarch’s role is largely ceremonial, he confirms the appointment of the country’s prime minister and Anwar could be hoping to persuade him that he has enough support from MPs to form a government, observers said.
However, Mahathir’s party Bersatu also announced it was leaving the “Pact of Hope” coalition — suggesting they could be making their own attempt to form a government. According to reports, the proposed new government aimed at blocking Anwar would have included Mahathir’s party, the United Malays National Organisation — the party of scandal-tainted ex-leader Najib — and a hardline Islamist group. Many were angry, however, that the democratically elected government, which came to power partly on a pledge to push through much-needed reforms, could be replaced without an election. The people “will not agree to or cooperate with any ‘backdoor’ government formed out of the selfish, self-preservation agenda of certain MPs”, said a statement from a group of leading activists and academics.