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Malaysia in transition

Mahathir axed from party he founded with Malaysian PM Muhyiddin

Former leader's son, Mukhriz Mahathir, and three others also ousted from Bersatu

Former Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad has been ousted from the party he co-founded and led to victory in the 2018 election.    © Reuters

KUALA LUMPUR -- Former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad has been sacked as a member of the party he co-founded in 2016 and led to victory in the 2018 election that ended the 61-year rule of the National Front.

Mahathir, along with his son Mukhriz Mahathir and three others, were ousted on Thursday by the Malaysian United Indigenous Party, or Bersatu. The party is led by current Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin, who helped push Mahathir out of office earlier this year.

The termination letters were circulating on social media. Sources close to Mahathir verified their authenticity when contacted by Nikkei, though an aide to the 94-year-old told reporters that he had not received his notice nor been directly informed of his termination.

The letters state that the termination was due to the five politicians' decision to sit with opposition lawmakers in the recent one-day parliamentary session -- a protest against Muhyiddin's government.

According to Bersatu's Executive Secretary Muhammad Suhaimi Yahya, whose signature is on the letters, the actions contradicted clauses 10.2.2 and 10.2.3 of the party constitution, which say members forfeit their status if they break the rules, including one against joining other party affiliations.

As a result of the infractions, the letters state, each politicians' "membership is revoked immediately."

Besides Mahathir and Mukhriz, the other sacked members were former Education Minister Maszlee Malik, former Youth and Sports Minister Syed Saddiq Syed Abdul Rahman, and former Deputy Finance Minister Amiruddin Hamzah. All five, until Wednesday, were members of the lower house representing Bersatu.

Though Mahathir was once a mentor to Muhyiddin, the two locked horns when the latter backed a successful political coup with the United Malays National Organization (UMNO) and the Malaysian Islamic Party (PAS). This forced Mahathir's resignation in February and allowed Muhyiddin to become the country's eighth prime minister after a weeklong battle to demonstrate that he had support.

Mukhriz and the three others remained on Mahathir's side within Bersatu, which resulted in Mukhriz being dropped as chief minister of the northern state Kedah last week.

Muhyiddin, during the first week of his premiership, extended an olive branch to Mahathir. But rather than accept it, the former prime minister continued to criticize Muhyiddin's government and openly sided with opposition parties led by longtime prime minister hopeful Anwar Ibrahim.

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