Mahathir quits, re-appointed interim PM by Malaysian King
Malaysian King accepts resignation, re-appoints him to oversee transition to new government
KUALA LUMPUR: He is the prime minister. No, he's not. Yes, he is.
That about sums up what happened to Dr Mahathir Mohamad yesterday.
One moment he was prime minister, then he resigned and then he was re-appointed interim prime minister - all in a day.
The resignation of Dr Mahathir, 94, broke apart a coalition with old rival Anwar Ibrahim, 72, that had scored a surprise election victory in 2018 and was not part of a pre-election promise that Dr Mahathir would one day cede power to Dr Anwar.
The decision, which Dr Mahathir had yet to explain as of press time followed surprise talks at the weekend between members of his coalition and the opposition on forming a new government.
The King accepted the resignation after a meeting with Dr Mahathir.
"However, His Highness has given his assent to appoint Mahathir Mohamad as interim prime minister, while waiting for the appointment of the new prime minister. Hence until then, (Dr Mahathir) will manage the country's affairs until a new prime minister and cabinet are appointed," Government Chief Secretary Mohd Zuki Ali said.
Mr Anwar and people close to Dr Mahathir said he had quit after accusations that he would form some sort of partnership with the opposition parties he defeated less than two years ago on an anti-corruption platform.
"I appealed to him on behalf of Keadilan and Pakatan, that this treachery could be dealt with together, but of course he's got a different mind," Mr Anwar said.
"He thought he shouldn't be treated in that manner... to associate him working with those (leaders)."
Asked if Dr Mahathir felt responsible for the political unrest that is ongoing, Mr Anwar said the former was not to be blamed.
Mr Anwar said: "His name was used, by those within my party and outside. He reiterated what he said to me earlier in the day, that he played no part in it.
"He made it very clear that in no way will he ever work with those associated with the past regime."
But it is unclear whether the resignation marks the end of the road for Dr Mahathir as a full-term premier, since at least three parties in his coalition called for him to stay on in office. Some in the opposition have also agreed to support him.
"The field is wide open for him," said Mr Ibrahim Suffian, director of pollster Merdeka.
"If he considers coming back as PM, he has the freedom to choose his partners or who he would like to be part of his Cabinet."
Dr Mahathir also quit the Bersatu party he had formed shortly before the polls, three sources familiar with the matter said.
His resignation capped over 24 hours of speculation about the fate of the coalition after lawmakers from his coalition held meetings on Sunday with the opposition United Malays National Organisation (Umno) and Islamist party PAS.
It is unclear what the political leaders of the country are planning next or who could form the next government.
Sources say there could be a showdown between Mr Anwar and an alliance between Bersatu President Muhyiddin Yassin and Mr Azmin Ali, who was yesterday sacked from Mr Anwar's party.
Constitutionally, any lawmaker who can command a majority in parliament can stake a claim to form the government. The King has to give his assent before a prime minister can be sworn in.
If no one has a simple majority of 112 in parliament, a fresh election is an option, a person close to Dr Mahathir's party said.
In public comments yesterday, Mr Anwar did not say if he would stake a claim to form a new government. He said he had met the King to express his views and seek his advice in the interest of the country.
"Seems like it will be up for grabs now," a second source said about the possibility of who will form the next government.
"(It depends on) who can pull in a majority."
Late last night Mr Mohd Zuki announced that Cabinet members have been relieved of their duties following Dr Mahathir's resignation, the Malay Mail reported.
Mr Mohd Zuki said Malaysia's King agreed to the revocation of the ministers' appointments on the prime minister's advice as provided for under the Federal Constitution.
"In relation to that, the duties of the members of the administration (covering the deputy prime minister, ministers, deputy ministers and political secretaries) cease on the same date," he said in a brief statement.
Bersih 2.0 and other civil society organisations also want Pakatan Harapan MPs who have now switched alliances to resign immediately.
"Failing which, we urge the interim prime minister, or the new prime minister, to seek a dissolution of Parliament to seek a fresh mandate...," it said in a statement, adding that it will not rule out protests if its demands are not met. - REUTERS, THE STAR