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Asia Minute: Malaysia’s Latest Political Surprise

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President of Russia
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Mahathir Mohamad

Another political surprise has hit a major country in Southeast Asia. The prime minister of Malaysia suddenly resigned on Monday. But he's still running the country in the latest twist of a continuing drama.

 

Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad is still in charge in Kuala Lumpur. Mahathir turned in his resignation to Malaysia's constitutional monarch on Monday, but it's not like the 94-year old leader is retiring.

Within hours, the king named him as interim prime minister until a new leader and cabinet take office.

Mahathir may be laying the groundwork for a new coalition, without the person who was to follow him as leader — Anwar Ibrahim.

Mahathir first came to power as prime minister back in 1981 — staying in office for more than 20 years. He helped oversee an economic transformation of the country, but also came under criticism for policies from human rights abuses to curbing the authority of the country's judiciary.

Over the years, he had a tumultuous relationship with Anwar, who was deputy prime minister in the 1990's before the two had a falling-out. In 2018, the two joined forces in a successful campaign to oust then-prime minister Najib Razak.

At the time, Mahathir said he would soon step aside to allow Anwar to become Prime Minister. Many Anwar supporters have become impatient waiting for Mahathir to hand over power. Many Anwar supporters have become impatient waiting for Mahathir to hand over power.

In parliament, the politics remain uncertain: Mahathir's party has now dropped out fo the ruling coalition, and at least 11 lawmakers have left Anwar's party to form their own block.

Bill Dorman has been the news director at Hawaiʻi Public Radio since 2011.
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