Former Malaysian PM Mahathir and supporters removed from ruling Bersatu party

Dr Mahathir Mohamad has been sacked from Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia. PHOTO: REUTERS

KUALA LUMPUR - Former prime minister Mahathir Mohamad has been removed from Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia, the party he co-founded in 2016, along with four other lawmakers who have refused to support the government led by Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin.

Mr Muhyiddin also helped found Bersatu and is currently the party's president.

The Straits Times saw letters dated Thursday (May 28) to the five members, including Tun Dr Mahathir's son Mukhriz, who was ousted as Kedah chief minister earlier this month.

"During the Parliament sitting on May 18, 2020, YB Tun joined and sat in the opposition bloc. Therefore... YB Tun's membership in Bersatu has ended immediately," read the letter from party executive secretary Suhaimi Yahya.

The notices to Datuk Seri Mukhriz Mahathir, Bersatu youth chief Syed Saddiq, Datuk Amiruddin Hamzah and Dr Maszlee Malik were also similarly worded.

Although an aide to Dr Mahathir said the office had not received the letter as of Thursday evening, a top Bersatu official confirmed the five lawmakers' memberships had been revoked.

"The five MPs were not sacked but their membership was automatically nullified when they crossed the benches. There is no party on earth that will allow their MPs to sit on a different bench as the rest of the party," Bersatu supreme councillor Wan Saiful Wan Jan said.

Their exits confirm ST's report on May 11 that Dr Mahathir and his son would have their memberships terminated for breaching the Bersatu constitution which states that members who join other parties would be automatically ejected, without the need to be sacked via a disciplinary process.

Dr Mahathir's departure would leave the party chairmanship vacant. The membership termination would also put paid to Mr Mukhriz's bid to unseat Mr Muhyiddin as president in the next party polls, which have been postponed indefinitely.

The move follows the May 12 ouster of Mr Mukhriz as Menteri Besar of Kedah, Dr Mahathir's home state, after four Bersatu assemblymen withdrew their support.

The Mahathir camp had refused to join Mr Muhyiddin when he led Bersatu out of the Pakatan Harapan (PH) government at the end of February to team up with then-opposition parties Umno and Parti Islam SeMalaysia (PAS).

This left Dr Mahathir without the majority needed to remain as premier, ending PH's rule just 21 months after it had defeated Umno to win the May 2018 election.

After the week-long political crisis, Mr Muhyiddin was sworn in as prime minister on March 1 with the support of his Perikatan Nasional coalition.

Dr Mahathir however has claimed to command majority support, saying he has the backing of 114 MPs, more than the 112 needed for a simple majority in Parliament.

The 94-year-old has sought to move a no-confidence vote against Mr Muhyiddin. But at the one-day Parliament sitting on May 18, Mr Muhyiddin ordered the Speaker to end proceedings immediately after the King's opening speech, leaving Mr Muhyiddin's majority untested.

Parliament will reconvene on July 13.

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