Mahathir Mohamad (centre) celebrates his election win with leaders of the victorious Pakatan Harapan coalition, including Muhyiddin Yassin, after a 2.30am May 10 2018 press conference in Kuala Lumpur (Simon Roughneen)

KUALA LUMPUR — In the latest twist to a turbulent six-decade career in politics, Malaysia’s former prime minister Mahathir Mohamad was sacked on Thursday from the political party he co-founded in 2016.

A statement from the United Indigenous Party of Malaysia, known by its Malay acronym Bersatu, said that 94-year-old Mahathir’s membership had been “revoked with immediate effect”

Mahathir, who was party chairman, was fired along with four other parliamentarians for not supporting Malaysia’s government, which is headed by Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin, the Bersatu president.

The five lawmakers took to the opposition benches during a brief May 18 parliamentary sitting.

Mahathir, who was first elected to parliament in 1964, was the world’s oldest government leader before he unexpectedly quit in February.

The resignation sparked a frantic week-long power struggle that culminated in Muhyiddin, who founded Bersatu with Mahathir ahead of their joining a four-party alliance that won 2018 elections, being nominated prime minister.

The same week in late February that Malaysia’s political elites were jostling for control, an Islamic ceremony was held on the outskirts of Kuala Lumpur. Attended by around 16,000 people, the event proved the wellspring for around half of Malaysia’s 7,629 confirmed cases of coronavirus – a spike that prompted Muhyiddin to impose a nationwide lockdown on March 18.

Mahathir – who decided shortly after his unexplained resignation that he wanted to be prime minister again – bitterly protested the new government and denounced his former interior minister Muhyiddin as a traitor.

Claiming he retained majority support in parliament, Mahathir sought a confidence vote in Muhyiddin on May 18 – but that was scuppered when the sitting was restricted to an address by the head of the country’s largely-ceremonial monarchy, King Abdullah.

Although it had lifted the lockdown two weeks previously, the government said the ring-fenced sitting was a necessary precaution due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Malaysia’s parliament is scheduled to reconvene in July, with the brief May 18 meeting the sole session since Muhyiddin took office on March 1.

The curbs prompted a furious Mahathir to claim “democracy is dead” in the country.

Among the four other lawmakers ousted from Bersatu was Mahathir’s son, Mukhriz, who earlier this month was deposed as head of the regional administration in Kedah, a state in northern Malaysia, by the same alliance-shifting that handed Muhyiddin the top job.

Others given their marching orders included Mahathir’s former education minister Maszlee Malik and Syed Saddiq, who was youth and sports minister.

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