Feb. 24 (UPI) — Two-time Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad abruptly resigned Monday in a surprise move that splintered Kuala Lumpur’s ruling political alliance and opened the door for a possible scramble for power.
The 94-year-old Mahathir, the world’s oldest leader, delivered his letter of resignation to the King of Malaysia less than two years after he won power in an alliance with one-time heir apparent-turned- nemesis Anwar Ibrahim.
The king accepted the resignation, but Mahathir will continue to serve in the post until a successor is chosen.
Mahathir’s party, the Malaysian United Indigenous Party, or Bersatu, said Monday it was dropping out of the ruling Pakatan Harapan coalition with Anwar’s People’s Justice Party.
An unraveling of the alliance may be at the root of Mahathir’s departure, as it followed speculation he was attempting to form a new governing coalition without Anwar.
The agreement between Mahathir and Anwar enabled their parties to win a surprise victory in May 2018 against a coalition headed by the long-dominant United Malays National Organization, but its terms called for Mahathir to step down as prime minister in favor of Anwar.
Mahathir’s reluctance frayed the alliance and talks over the weekend between Bersatu, the former ruling party and rebels from Anwar’s party broke down without an agreement on a new coalition. Anwar subsequently denounced “traitors” in his own party an accused Bersatu of engaging in a plot to bring down the government.
Mahathir was serving in his second stint as Malaysia’s prime minister. He first occupied the post between 1981 and 2003.