Malaysia in turmoil

The PH govt falls after Bersatu pulls out of the alliance formed prior to GE14, Dr Mahathir appointed interim PM

by DASHVEENJIT KAUR / pic by MUHD AMIN NAHARUL

MALAYSIA plunged into turmoil yesterday after Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad resigned as the prime minister (PM), sending the local equity market and the ringgit tumbling as the country faces its worst political crisis in history.

The world’s oldest PM shocked the nation and the world with his resignation at a time when politicians were gerrymandering to form a new alliance to remove the Pakatan Harapan (PH) government led by Dr Mahathir.

Dr Mahathir tendered his resignation letter to the Yang Di-Pertuan Agong at 1pm. He also resigned from his position as Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia chairman, a clear indication of his displeasure over the political manoeuvring from within his own party.

The King has accepted Dr Mahathir’s resignation.

But the 95-year-old statesman has been appointed as the interim PM until a new leader is selected and members of a new Cabinet are formed.

In a statement yesterday, Al-Sultan Abdullah Ri’ayatuddin Al-Mustafa Billah Shah has also rescinded the appointments of the Cabinet members upon Dr Mahathir’s advice.

Therefore, all the duties of the deputy PM, ministers, deputy ministers and political secretaries have been terminated effective yesterday.

The PH government fell yesterday after Bersatu pulled out of the alliance formed prior to the 14th General Election (GE14).

A group of MPs from PKR, headed by Datuk Seri Mohamed Azmin Ali, also quit the party, leaving the ruling coalition short of the majority needed to rule the country.

A few Bersatu leaders who are aligned to Dr Mahathir have also quit, leaving the party which was supposed to lead a newly formed coalition with the Opposition in tatters.

It is not known who has the majority presently. Dr Mahathir was against any back door manoeuvring to form a new alliance and government.

Some Bersatu leaders were believed to have taken offence by the treatment accorded to Dr Mahathir during last Friday’s PH presidential council meeting. The meeting was to decide Dr Mahathir’s departure as PM as some sections of the Alliance of Hope continued to press for a definitive date.

Over the weekend, MPs from Umno, PAS and Gabungan Parti Sarawak (GPS), as well as certain Bersatu and PKR leaders, held discussions in Kuala Lumpur with the intention to form a new government.

Talks of a back-door government had been mounting in the last few months. The deteriorating relationship between Azmin and PKR president Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim had fuelled the possible creation of an alternative alliance to remove the PH government.

Anwar, DAP secretary general Lim Guan Eng and Parti Amanah Negara president Mohamad Sabu met with Dr Mahathir at his residence in Seri Kembangan late yesterday morning.

Anwar claimed that he had pleaded for Dr Mahathir to change his mind, but also said the latter was unhappy that he was being associated with “those literally corrupt”.

Lim also condemned the treachery of some PH leaders and MPs that attempted to form a back-door government to replace a democratically-elected government.

“I had seen Tun this morning in his residence and was surprised when he informed me of his intention to resign. Dr Mahathir clearly stated that he cannot work with Umno when we worked so hard to reject Umno successfully in the 2018 general elections,” Lim claimed.

Meanwhile, the police have been put on alert for any political fallout, while the central bank is monitoring the country’s financial system.

PH is likely to continue to endorse Dr Mahathir as the PM, but the parties with the majority votes are still vague. Political parties are expected to try to convince their MPs to support their agenda.

The equity market and the ringgit are expected to tumble further as investors flee the country, unless some resolutions to the political crisis can be achieved in the next few days.

The PM is also expected to announce the stimulus package to help the country confront the financial fallout from the Covid-19 outbreak this Thursday. It is not known whether Dr Mahathir will announce the package.

Besides the federal government, changes are also expected at several state governments.