News World Asia Intrigue reigns in Malaysia as PM Mahathir is axed as his own party’s leader
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Intrigue reigns in Malaysia as PM Mahathir is axed as his own party’s leader

Mahathir Mohamad
Mahathir Mohamad, 92, is at the centre of the wrangle to select Malayasia's next PM. Photo: AAP
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Fresh layers of confusion have been piled on Malaysia’s tempestuous politics, with the country’s 94-year-old interim Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad removed as chairman of his own Bersatu party on Saturday.

It’s the latest twist in a week-long struggle for control of one of Asia’s wealthier economies.

Mahathir had announced on Saturday morning that he had regained the backing of the Pakatan Harapan/Alliance of Hope coalition. He had broken with the coalition on Monday when unexpectedly resigning as prime minister.

However, Bersatu party president Muhyiddin Yassin said he was replacing Mahathir as chairman. Other party members disputed the attempted takeover.

On Friday Muhyiddin emerged as front-runner to become prime minister. Various party statements gave him the backing of 95 parliamentarians, putting him ahead of rival Anwar Ibrahim’s 92 in the race to reach the majority of 112 votes needed.

Mahathir had appeared to rule himself out returning as leader earlier in the week amid a breach with his former allies, including Anwar, who was previously promised the top job in a handover due to take place sometime in 2020.

Muhyiddin is counting on the support of the United Malays National Organisation (UMNO), the party of former premier Najib Razak who is now on trial on charges of looting hundreds of millions of dollars of public money.

However, both Mahathir and the alliance had stated that they would not allow UMNO back into government.

– with AAP