Malaysia's Mahathir Mohamad has returned to work with the new title of interim prime minister, a day after he resigned the leadership in a shock move that plunged the country into political turmoil.
Mahathir, who at 94 is the world's oldest government leader, made no comment as he arrived by car at his office in Putrajaya on Tuesday. He disbanded his entire cabinet late on Monday after resigning as prime minister and agreeing to a request from Malaysia's king to stay on until a successor is named.
Mahathir's resignation broke apart an already fragile coalition with old rivals including Anwar Ibrahim, 72, that had scored a surprise election victory on an anti-corruption platform in 2018 but has since become increasingly unpopular.
It was not immediately clear how long Mahathir would remain in the interim role, when a new cabinet would be appointed or how the next government would be formed.
"For Malaysians, the trauma of uncertainty is hard to overstate," the pro-establishment New Straits Times newspaper wrote in an editorial.
The political crisis comes at a particularly bad time for the Malaysian economy, after growth fell to a decade low in the final quarter of last year. Mahathir had been scheduled to announce a stimulus package to deal with the coronavirus outbreak on Thursday.
The resignation left in doubt the pre-election promise Mahathir had made to Anwar that he would cede power before his five-year term ended in 2023.
It followed a sudden burst of political wrangling at the weekend, when some of Mahathir's allies were accused of plotting with the former ruling party to form a new government that would exclude Anwar.
Mahathir, who had not set a date for handing over power, had appeared irritated that Anwar's backers were demanding a clear timetable.
Australian Associated Press