On Monday, Malaysian Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin submitted his resignation to the King, becoming the shortest government leader after admitting he lost majority support to rule.
Science Minister Khairy Jamaluddin wrote on Instagram that “the cabinet has submitted our resignation” to the King shortly after Muhyiddin left the palace after meeting with the monarch.
Muhyiddin’s departure comes less than 18 months after taking office and will plunge the country into a new crisis amid a worsening pandemic.
Political leaders have already begun to fight for the highest position—his deputy Ismail Sabri rallying support to succeed Mr. Muhyiddin and keep the government intact.
A cabinet minister, Mohamad Redzuan Mohamad Yusof, told The Associated Press that Muhyiddin would submit his resignation. He points out to the monarch that his alliance still has the most significant support bloc despite losing the majority.
Local media said that the head of the National Police, the president of the Electoral Commission, and the attorney general were seen entering the palace on Monday. They left just before Mr. Muhyiddin arrived.
Muhyiddin has dodged tests in Parliament for his leadership from the start. His government collapsed after more than a dozen lawmakers from the largest party in his alliance withdrew their support for the government, which has a majority—significantly reduced. Two ministers of the United Malays National Organization have also resigned from the Cabinet.
According to the Malaysian constitution, the prime minister must resign if he loses the support of the majority, and the King can appoint a new leader who he believes has the confidence of Parliament.
Mr. Muhyiddin initially insisted that he still has majority support and would prove it in Parliament next month. But in a U-turn on Friday, the prime minister sought the backing of the opposition to prop up his rule. He promised to call a general election for next July.
He also offered concessions, including proposals to limit the prime minister’s term, tighten checks and balances, and a prominent ministerial role to the opposition leader. Still, his request was immediately rejected by all parties.
His expected departure comes after growing public outrage over what was widely perceived as his government’s mishandling of the pandemic. Malaysia has one of the highest per capita infection and death rates globally, with daily cases topping 20,000 this month despite a seven-month state of emergency and a lockdown since June to address the crisis.
Muhyiddin may advise the King to dissolve Parliament to pave the way for the first elections, but this is not a likely option during the pandemic.
The King can decide on a new leader, but currently, no coalition can claim a majority. A tripartite alliance, the largest opposition bloc, has nominated its leader Anwar Ibrahim as a candidate for prime minister.
But the bloc has fewer than 90 legislators, less than the 111 needed for a simple majority. That is also less than the 100 lawmakers believed to back Muhyiddin.
Other contenders include Deputy Prime Minister Ismail from UMNO. Still, it is unclear whether a deal can be reached and whether the King will accept it. Some opposition lawmakers also opposed such a deal, saying the entire Cabinet must resign because of the government’s failures.
Local media said another possible candidate was Razaleigh Hamzah, an 84-year-old prince who was finance minister. Mr. Razaleigh, a UMNO legislator, is seen as a neutral candidate who could unite the warring factions in UMNO.
Meanwhile, 96-year-old former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad has called for a professional-led National Recovery Council to solve the country’s health and economic crises.
Muhyiddin took power in March 2020 after initiating the collapse of the reformist government of Mohamad that won the 2018 elections. He brought out his Bersatu party to join the UMNO-led coalition that had led Malaysia since independence from Great Britain in 1957.
Still, he was ousted in 2018 by a multi-million dollar financial scandal. Mr. Mohamad abruptly resigned to protest Bersatu’s plan to work with the previous government.
The Muhyiddin government is unstable as the UMNO has not been content to play a secondary role against its more minor party. Muhyiddin detained Parliament for months last year to shore up support. In January, he re-suspended Parliament and ruled by ordinance without legislative approval under a coronavirus state of emergency that ended on August 1.