Move comes amid growing political turmoil . . .
Malaysia’s Prime Minister Mahathir Mohammad tendered his resignation to the country’s King on Monday afternoon, following a tense weekend for the ruling coalition Pakatan Harapan (PH). Mahathir returned to power for a second time in 2018, defeating the United Malays National Organisation (UMNO), the ruling party for 60 years, and ousting Najib Razak, now on trial along with his wife for corruption. Pressure has been mounting for 94-year-old Mahathir to fulfill his promise of ceding power after two years to Anwar Ibrahim, leader of the People’s Justice Party (PKR), a majority faction in the PH coalition.
Relationship on the rocks . . .
The Mahathir-Anwar relationship has been a staple of Malaysian politics for over 20 years, with Anwar being Mahathir’s deputy prime minister from 1993 to 2003 under UMNO. Disagreements over the handling of the Asian financial crisis in 1998 drove them apart, resulting in Anwar’s expulsion from his post, after which he formed a new party. Anwar was jailed for corruption in 1999 and then for sodomy in 2015, charges he and his supporters maintain were politically motivated. He was finally released after the historical May 2018 elections. This latest political manoeuvring once again excludes Anwar, as members from UMNO, Bersatu, and a faction from his own PKR may potentially form a new coalition that would enable Mahathir to stay on regardless.
Resigned PM keeps post . . .
Mahathir’s resignation may be strategic, as it did not result in a change in the PM’s office. Instead, acting according to the constitution, King Sultan Abdullah terminated the duties of all government ministers and appointed Mahathir as 'care-taker' PM until a new one is appointed. The absence of any cabinet minister to dissolve parliament makes a snap election at this point unlikely. And how long the nonagenarian politician stays on will depend on whether he enjoys the confidence of parliament. Reacting to the political uncertainty, Malaysia’s securities market dipped to its lowest point in nine years, prompting the country’s national bank to state that it was “closely monitoring conditions in the financial markets.”
- Malaymail: Malaysia’s stock market drops by 41.4 points at close today, lowest in nine years, amid crisis in govt
- The New York Times: Mahathir Mohamad, Malaysia’s Prime Minister, resigns
- South China Morning Post: Malaysia’s ruling coalition in danger as Anwar Inbrahim says ‘former friends and traitors’ want to oust government