It's being described as a shock resignation by the world's oldest elected leader. The 94-year old Prime Minister of Malaysia, Mahathir Mohamad, who returned to power in 2018, announced his resignation on Monday in a mere two-line statement offering no details.
He was asked to stay on as interim leader by the country's king upon his resignation at 1pm local time. It follows a weekend of political turmoil, which will now continue this week as the question of a new government remains hanging in the balance. As Al Jazeera reports:
Mahathir's decision follows a weekend of political wrangling, after it was reported on Sunday night that his party was planning to form a new government that would exclude his anointed successor, Anwar Ibrahim.
...Anwar also said that Mahathir has no plans to join with anyone from the previous ruling coalition he defeated to try to form a new government.
When asked if Mahathir was responsible for the current political turmoil, Anwar blamed "those within my party and outside using his name."
The crisis was sparked reportedly upon Mahathir’s supporters within his own "Pact of Hope" coalition attempting to form a new coalition allegedly aimed to prevent the appointment of his agreed successor, Anwar Ibrahim.
Anwar and Mahathir had in 2018 joined forces despite their rocky political relations to defeat a notoriously corruption-plagued government in the polls.
For the time being it's expected that Malaysia's constitutional monarch will play a key role, with options to invite a leader to form a new administration, or alternately call for a fresh general election.
There's rumors that Mahathir himself may be behind the drive to form a new coalition in order to later more firmly solidify his power.
The immediate effect of the surprise resignation was felt by the country's stock markets, which plunged on the news.
Meanwhile, director of the Asia Institute Tasmania at the University of Tasmania Prof James Chin, told The Guardian of future prospects for the country's politics: “The possible outcome is that you have a much stronger Malay-centric government with a much more Islamic outlook. This is very bad news for non-Malays – the Chinese and Indian communities in Malaysia make up more than 30% of the population.”