Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin will offer his resignation to the king on Monday, a minister said, potentially spelling an end to his 17-month-old government and plunging the country into fresh turmoil.
Muhyiddin has faced mounting pressure to step aside after losing his parliamentary majority, and over his administration’s handling of a worsening coronavirus outbreak.
He made a last-ditch attempt to cling to power Friday by urging opposition MPs to support him in exchange for institutional reforms – but his offer was rejected.
Minister Mohamad Redzuan Yusof told AFP that Muhyiddin had informed lawmakers from his party during a meeting in Kuala Lumpur on Sunday that he would tender his resignation.
“He will hold a final Cabinet meeting on Monday, then he will head to the palace to submit his resignation letter,” said the minister in the Prime Minister’s Department.
“We did try to convince him to stay on, but he said: ‘We do not have the number of MPs.'”
Muhyiddin told the meeting it would be up to the king – who has publicly criticised his government – to accept his resignation or not, the minister added.
There has been speculation that, should he step down, a new government will be formed without elections due to concerns that polls could worsen the virus outbreak.
But, with no clear successor as prime minister, there are likely to be days of political horse-trading ahead as MPs seek to form a workable coalition.
It will ultimately be up to the constitutional monarch to appoint a leader whom he believes commands parliamentary support.
Muhyiddin came to power in March last year without an election at the head of a scandal-plagued coalition following the collapse of a two-year-old, reformist government led by Dr Mahathir Mohamad.
But his government was beset by turmoil from day one – it had weak parliamentary support, its legitimacy was constantly questioned, and he faced a serious challenge from opposition chief Anwar Ibrahim.
Pressure mounted after some MPs from Umno, the biggest party backing Muhyiddin, publicly withdrew support.
Muhyiddin had pledged to hold a no-confidence vote in September but it quickly became clear he could not muster enough backing.