Faced With Political Turmoil, Malaysian PM Mahathir Sends Resignation Letter to King

The aging politician once referred to himself as a 'proud anti-Semite' and has regularly clashed - by proxy - with Israel

Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, speaks during a press conference in Putrajaya, Malaysia, February 22, 2020
Vincent Thian,AP

Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad has submitted a letter of resignation to the country's king, his office said on Monday, amid talks of forming a new governing coalition.

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.

"The letter has been sent to His Royal Highness the King at 1 p.m.," Mahathir's office said in a statement.

It was not immediately clear if Mahathir could form another government with the support of other parties, but his party, Bersatu, has also quit the ruling coalition, its president, Malaysian home minister Muhyiddin Yassin said on Facebook.

Supporter takes pictures in front of a banner showing Mahathir Mohamad (L) and Anwar Ibrahim (R) during a rally ahead of the 14th general election on Malaysia's island of Langkawi, April 15, 2018
AFP

On Sunday, Anwar had accused Mahathir's party and "traitors" in his own party of plotting to form a new government with the United Malays National Organisation, the former ruling party ousted in 2018 amid graft accusations.

Sources said Mahathir's party and a faction in Anwar's party met officials from UMNO and Islamist party PAS in efforts to form a new coalition and possibly back Mahathir to serve out a full five-year term as prime minister.

The turmoil, amid growing fears about a spreading coronavirus, had spooked investors, driving Kuala Lumpur's benchmark to a 10-year low, while the ringgit currency slid 0.7% to an almost six-month low, its sharpest drop in over three years.

The tussle between old rivals Mahathir, 94, and Anwar, 72, has shaped Malaysian politics for decades and tension has persisted, despite their alliance to win 2018 elections based on a promise that Mahathir would one day cede power to Anwar.

Mahathir is know for his harsh rhetoric against Jews and his avowed anti-Semitism. "Jews are ruling the world by proxy" and "I am glad to be labeled anti semitic," wrote the soon to be prime minister on his blog in 2012

"The Jews are not merely hook-nosed, but understand money instinctively," wrote Mahathir in his 1970 book "The Malay Dilemma."

A “moron" who epitomized the “self-serving rogues” who would suck Southeast Asian economies dry, he wrote in 1997 about Hungarian-born investor George Soros.

"1.3 billion Muslims cannot be defeated by a few million Jews. There must be a way. And we can only find a way if we stop to think, to assess our weaknesses and our strength, to plan, to strategize and then to counterattack," is another quote that gained Mahathir international condemnation after a 2003 speech at the Organization of the Islamic Conference.