The fate of Malaysia’s ruling coalition hung in doubt after Mahathir Mohamad today resigned as Malaysia’s prime minister and his Bersatu party has quit the governing Alliance of Hope coalition.
Mahathir’s move comes after a weekend of drama, with parties from both government and coalition meeting all day Sunday and Anwar Ibrahim, the designated successor to Mahathir, alleging “betrayal” by allies.
Anwar and Mahathir met on Monday, shortly before Mahathir, at 94 the world’s oldest Prime Minister, announced he would quit.
Mahathir previously said he wanted to remain as leader until after Malaysia hosted the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in November.
Eleven members of Anwar’s People’s Justice Party, which was part of the Mahathir-led coalition, announced also that they are forming a new independent grouping under Azmin Ali, Malaysia’s economic affairs minister.
Ali was among the former Anwar allies seen at meetings on Sunday that spurred speculation that the government was about to fall and that members of the coalition were aiming to oust Anwar and his allies.
It is not clear whether Mahathir or Bersatu can yet form another government.
Muhyiddin Yassin, president of Mahathir’s Bersatu party, said in a statement that he and the party lawmakers “continue to support and trust” Mahathir as prime minister.
Among the parties seen at meeting Sunday with Mahathir allies was the opposition United Malays National Organisation, which Mahathir led during his first 1981-2003 tenure as prime minister.
Anwar and Mahathir have a long and fractious history, going back to the early 1990s when Anwar, a former finance minister, and deputy prime minister, saw Mahathir’s as likely successor.
But after a spectacular falling-out, Anwar was jailed on charges of sodomy and corruption.
The two men only reconciled in the run-up to Malaysia’s 2018 parliamentary elections, when Mahathir led the opposition alliance to a shock election win over his former UMNO allies, the first change of government in Malaysian history.
In what could presage the announcement of a new government, Mahathir will meet Malaysia’s King at 5 p.m. (0900 GMT) on Monday.