Malaysia ordered the temporary dissolution of former premier Mahathir Mohamad’s new political party on Thursday because of missing paperwork as the country gears up for a general election that could be called any day.
The deregistration is a major blow for Mahathir, 92, who is leading a campaign by a federal opposition alliance to oust scandal-tainted Prime Minister Najib Razak.
In a letter dated Thursday, the Registrar of Societies said Mahathir’s Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia had failed to meet a 30-day deadline to hand over paperwork proving the party had complied with registration requirements.
“Hence a temporary order for the aforementioned society to be dissolved from the date of this order,” registrar Surayati Ibrahim said in the letter, seen by Reuters.
Mahathir’s party can appeal against the ruling or reverse the order if it provides the required documents within 30 days, failing which it will become permanent, Surayati was quoted by media as saying.
The decision to deregister Mahathir’s party comes a day before Najib is widely expected to dissolve parliament ahead of the election.
Najib’s undefeated coalition, led by his United Malay National Organisation (UMNO) party, faces arguably its toughest electoral test since the country’s independence in 1957, with Mahathir leading the opposition charge.
Mahathir turned on Najib after it was revealed in 2015 that $681 million in alleged funds from state fund 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) found their way into his former protege’s personal accounts.
More than six countries are investigating alleged misappropriation of funds linked to 1MDB.
Najib has denied all wrongdoing.
Mahathir, who was prime minister for 22 years, has mended ties with jailed opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim in a bid to form a cohesive opposition coalition to oust Najib.