24 February, 2020
KUALA LUMPUR ― Dr Mahathir Mohamad resigned as Malaysia’s prime minister on Monday (Feb 24), local media reported, after two days of intense speculation that he would lead his political party, Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (PPBM), to exit the ruling Pakatan Harapan coalition and form a new government with new coalition partners.
In a brief two-line statement on Monday afternoon, the Prime Minister’s Office announced that Dr Mahathir sent his resignation letter to Malaysia’s King at 1pm.
Dr Mahathir, 94, has 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.
[Well, he is in the history books.]
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 and October 31, 2003 — having first assumed the position when he was 56 and then stepping down at age 78.
After leading the Pakatan Harapan (PH) coalition to victory in the 14th general elections on May 9, 2018, Dr Mahathir, then 92, was sworn in the next day and took up the position of prime minister again, almost 15 years after his “retirement” from politics.
Dr Mahathir’s resignation on Monday is just about three months shy of PH’s second anniversary in power.
Speculation has been rife that the coalition would lose federal power even before it completes its first term due to a purported new coalition to be formed under Dr Mahathir’s leadership.
At about the same time when news of his resignation surfaced, Dr Mahathir’s PPBM party also announced on Monday that it had decided on Sunday 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.
PKR has also announced that it had sacked its deputy president 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.
[An 11 member PKR splinter group who would support a new coalition with Dr M as PM.]
Mr Azmin was previously alleged 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 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 told Malay Mail that Mr Anwar’s wife and Deputy Prime Minister Wan Azizah Wan Ismail could be the interim prime minister.
DR M RESIGNS: TWO POSSIBLE SCENARIOS
Following Dr Mahathir’s resignation, sources offered two different scenarios for his decision, reported Malaysiakini.
One source claimed that the premier was fed-up with his own party leaders’ political manoeuvring, while another alleged Dr Mahathir was resigning as the Pakatan Harapan prime minister in order for him to become the legitimate prime minister of the new coalition.
However, the source added that Malaysia’s King could also decide to call for snap polls or appoint another Member of Parliament as prime minister.
With Dr Mahathir's resignation, Malaysia’s Cabinet is automatically dissolved as well, said the report.
"Dr M (Mahathir) may present another letter with majority MPs and form his new administration. Then he appoints his new cabinet," the source added.
In a tweet, Umno secretary-general Annuar Musa said the Pakatan Harapan government had collapsed.
"The question of a government being formed through the front door or back door does no longer (arise). It depends on the MPs and Agong (Malaysian King)," he tweeted.
[A new coalition, non-Pakatan Harapan, would need to be able to stitch together support from 112 MPs. Bersatu has 26 seats. UMNO 39 seats, PAS 18 seats. Total 83 seats (assuming no defections or splits). Add the seats held by Amanah (11) and Gabungan Parti Sarawak (GPS, which was the Sarawak Barisan Nasional, 18 seats), and they would just managed to squeak past to 112