KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 24 ― Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad has resigned as prime minister today, after two days of intense speculation that he would lead his political party Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (PPBM) to exit the ruling coalition Pakatan Harapan and form a new government with new coalition partners.
In a brief two-line statement this afternoon, the Prime Minister’s Office announced that Dr Mahathir sent his resignation letter to the Yang di-Pertuan Agong at 1pm today.
Dr Mahathir, 94, had been prime minister of Malaysia twice in the nation’s history.
This will be the second time he has quit the post. With this resignation, Dr Mahathir will have the distinction of being both Malaysia’s longest-serving and shortest-serving prime minister.
In his first stint, Dr Mahathir was the prime minister under the Barisan Nasional (BN) administration for 22 years or five terms between July 16, 1981 to October 31, 2003, having first assumed the position when he was aged 56 and then stepping down aged 78.
After leading the Pakatan Harapan (PH) coalition to victory in the 14th general elections on May 9, 2018, Dr Mahathir at age 92 was sworn in the next day and took up the position of prime minister again, almost 15 years after his “retirement” from politics when he gave up the post.
Dr Mahathir’s resignation today is just about three months shy of PH’s second anniversary in power.
Speculation has been rife that the PH coalition would lose federal power even before it completes its first term due to a purported new coalition to be formed with Dr Mahathir’s political party Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (PPBM).
At about the same time when news of his resignation surfaced, Dr Mahathir’s party Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (PPBM) today also announced that it had decided yesterday to pull out of the PH coalition.
An announcement was subsequently made by Dr Mahathir’s office within the party that he had also submitted his resignation letter as PPBM chairman to the PPBM headquarters today.
PKR has also announced that it had sacked its deputy president Datuk Seri Azmin Ali and vice-president Zuraida Kamaruddin, while 11 MPs including the duo separately announced that they had quit PKR and PH to form an independent bloc in Parliament.
Azmin was previously speculated to be planning to lead his faction to join forces with Dr Mahathir’s PPBM and several other parties including Umno and PAS to form a new coalition government.
For the PH coalition to hold on to power or for any new coalition to form a new government, they will need to have at least 112 MPs or a simple majority of the 222-seat Dewan Rakyat to be on their side.
PKR president Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim was previously known to be the PM-in-waiting based on a promise and agreement within PH’s leadership for him to take on the baton after Dr Mahathir, but a source has told Malay Mail that Anwar’s wife and Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail could be the interim prime minister.
Chief Secretary to the Government Datuk Seri Mohd Zuki Ali this evening announced that the Yang di-Pertuan Agong has accepted Dr Mahathir’s resignation and appointed the latter to be the interim prime minister, until a new prime minister is appointed and a new Cabinet is formed.