Malaysia’s Mahathir Mohammed is trying to form a national unity government under his personal authority, drawing together rival parties, political sources said on Tuesday, following his shock resignation as Prime Minister.
The world’s oldest government leader at 94, Mahathir stepped down on Monday, but Malaysia’s king immediately named him interim Prime Minister, which lets him retain the authority of a permanent leader.
The move effectively shattered a fragile coalition Mahathir had formed with old rival Anwar Ibrahim, 72, to win a 2018 election on an anti-graft platform.
It also appeared to nullify Mahathir’s promise to eventually hand power to Anwar.
Mahathir proposed the idea of a grand coalition at meetings on Tuesday with leaders of major political parties, including Anwar and those he defeated in the election, four political sources with knowledge of the matter said.
“It appears that Mahathir is poised to form the government,” one source said.“There won’t be any political entity. We might be a government of no parties.”
The sources declined to be identified because they were not authorised to speak to media.
Mahathir’s office made no immediate comment on the plan. “He is the person most likely to be the next Prime Minister,” said Democratic Action Party parliamentarian Ong Kian Ming.
Parties across the board rallied to say they would support Mahathir’s return as full-time Prime Minister, with Anwar’s the only major party not to offer a public endorsement.
No one has publicly staked a claim to be Malaysia’s Prime Minister.
The realignment could give Mahathir greater authority than even during a previous spell as Prime Minister from 1981 until his retirement in 2003, during which he is credited with turning a farming backwater into an industrial nation.
Two of the sources said Mahathir’s resignation meant a pre-election promise to hand power to Anwar was no longer valid.