Malaysia: Mahathir Mohamad returns as interim PM amid political turmoil 

WION Web Team New Delhi Feb 25, 2020, 09.20 AM(IST)

File photo: Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad. Photograph:( Reuters )

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Mahathir disbanded his entire cabinet late on Monday after resigning as prime minister and agreeing to a request from Malaysia's king to stay on until a successor is named.

A day after submitting his resignation letter to Malaysia's king, Mahathir Mohamad went back to work on Tuesday with the new title of interim prime minister. 

The shock move plunged the country into political turmoil.

Mahathir, who at 94 is the world's oldest government leader, did not comment as he arrived by car at his office in Putrajaya, reported news agency Reuters.

Mahathir disbanded his entire cabinet late on Monday after resigning as prime minister and agreeing to a request from Malaysia's king to stay on until a successor is named.

Also read: Malaysian PM Mahathir Mohamad sends resignation letter to king

Mahathir's resignation broke apart an already fragile coalition with old rivals including Anwar Ibrahim, 72, that had scored a surprise election victory on an anti-corruption platform in 2018 but has since become increasingly unpopular.

The fate of Malaysia's ruling coalition had been in doubt after surprise weekend talks between it and opposition groups on forming a new government that would exclude Mahathir's anointed successor Anwar Ibrahim.

It was not immediately clear how long Mahathir would remain in the interim role, when a new cabinet would be appointed or how the next government would be formed.

"For Malaysians, the trauma of uncertainty is hard to overstate," the pro-establishment New Straits Times newspaper wrote in an editorial.

The political crisis comes at a particularly bad time for the Malaysian economy, after growth fell to a decade low in the final quarter of last year. 

Mahathir had been scheduled to announce a stimulus package to deal with the coronavirus outbreak on Thursday.

The resignation left in doubt the pre-election promise Mahathir had made to Anwar that he would cede power before his five-year term ended in 2023.