Malaysian Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin is expected to step down on Monday, media reports say, after losing his majority in parliament due to infighting in his ruling coalition.
If confirmed, Muhyiddin's resignation would end a tumultuous 17 months in office, but also increase uncertainty in Malaysia as the country grapples with surging COVID-19 cases and an economic downturn.
It was not immediately clear who could form the next government, given no one has a clear majority in parliament, or whether elections could be held during the pandemic.
The decision is likely to be thrust into the hands of constitutional monarch King Al-Sultan Abdullah, who can appoint a prime minister from among elected lawmakers based on who he thinks is likely to command a majority.
Muhyiddin, who has for weeks defied calls to quit, informed party members that he will submit his resignation to the king on Monday, according to Mohd Redzuan Md Yusof, a minister in the prime minister's department, news portal Malaysiakini reported on Sunday.
The minister and Muhyiddin's office did not respond to Reuters requests for comment.
A change in leadership could hamper Malaysia's efforts to reboot a pandemic-stricken economy and curb a resurgence in COVID-19 cases. Malaysia's infections and fatality rates per million people are the highest in Southeast Asia.
Muhyiddin's resignation could also return the premiership to the United Malays National Organisation (UMNO), Malaysia's 'grand old party', which was voted out in a 2018 election after being tainted by corruption allegations.
The top two contenders for the premiership or interim prime minister's post include deputy prime minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob and veteran lawmaker Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah, both from UMNO.
Muhyiddin's grip on power has been precarious since he took office in March 2020 with a slim majority. Pressure on him mounted recently after some UMNO lawmakers - the largest bloc in the ruling alliance - withdrew support.
He admitted for the first time last week that he did not have a majority. A plea to get opposition support to win a confidence vote was rejected.
© 2021 Thomson/Reuters. All rights reserved.