Malaysian Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad has announced his resignation but has been asked to stay on as interim leader by the country’s king.
Mahathir also reportedly resigned from his own party, Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia, which announced that it was quitting the ruling government coalition.
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 expected successor, Anwar Ibrahim.
The king accepted Mahathir’s resignation after meeting with him on Monday, Chief Secretary Mohd Zuki Ali said in a statement.
“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, (Mahathir) will manage the country’s affairs until a new prime minister and cabinet are appointed,” Mohd Zuki said.
Earlier, Anwar said that Mahathir had no plans to join with anyone from the previous ruling coalition to try to form a new government.
The intrigue over Mahathir, 94, and Anwar, 72, is the latest chapter in a long-running political saga between two of the country’s most prominent political figures.
Anwar and Mahathir united ahead of the 2018 election to drive out the UMNO-dominated Barisan Nasional coalition that had ruled the Southeast Asian country for six decades in a surprise victory that led to the removal of then-Prime Minister Najib Razak.
Mahathir has also repeatedly promised to hand over power to his former foe.
But tensions between the two in their Pakatan Harapan alliance had been growing, as Mahathir resisted setting a specific timetable for keeping his promise to hand power to Anwar.
Anwar was Mahathir’s deputy when the latter was prime minister during his first stint from 1981 to 2003. But Mahathir sacked him in 1998 after they disagreed on how to handle the country’s financial crisis.
Soon afterwards, Anwar was jailed for sodomy, charges he says were trumped up. They later reunited in 2018 in a political alliance that ousted Najib.