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Malaysia PM Mahathir submits resignation to king

KUALA LUMPUR - Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad has submitted his resignation to the king, two sources with direct knowledge of the matter told Reuters on Monday, amid talks of forming a new coalition to govern the country.

His party, Bersatu, has also quit the ruling coalition, its president, Malaysian home minister Muhyiddin Yassin said on Facebook.

Mahathir, 94, assumed office in May 2018 for his second stint as prime minister. 

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

A spokesman from the prime minister’s office declined to comment, saying only that a statement will be issued soon.

The sources declined to be named as they were not authorized to talk to the media.

Mohamad announced his resignation on Monday paving the way for a possible formation of a new government.

Mahathir said in a two-line statement that he has informed the country's king of his resignation at 1pm Kuala Lumpur time (0500 GMT).

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.

Reuters also reported that Mahathir's party, Pribumi Bersatu, has quit the ruling government coalition, Pakatan Harapan.

Mahathir's decision follows a weekend of political wrangling, after it was reported on Sunday night that his party was planning to form a new government that would exclude his anointed successor, Anwar Ibrahim.

The tussle between old rivals Mahathir, 94, and Anwar, 72, is the latest chapter in the long-running political saga between two of the country's most prominent political figures.

Anwar and Mahathir united ahead of the 2018 election to drive out the UMNO-dominated Barisan Nasional coalition that had ruled the Southeast Asian country for six decades, in a surprise victory that led to the ouster of then-Prime Minister Najib Razak.

But tension between the two in their Pakatan Harapan (Alliance of Hope) coalition had been growing, as Mahathir resisted setting a specific timetable for keeping his promise to hand power to Anwar.

The coalition's political fortunes have been waning with defeat in five recent by-elections.

Anwar also had a split with party mate, Mohamed Azmin Ali, the econonic affairs minister, who was among those who joined the meeting on Sunday night.

Anwar was Mahathir's deputy when the latter was prime minister during his first stint from 1981 to 2003. But Mahathir sacked him in 1998 after they disagreed on how to handle the financial crisis.

Soon afterwards, Anwar was jailed for sodomy, charges he says were trumped up.

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