KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad reiterated his promise on Saturday (Jun 22) to pass the baton to Anwar Ibrahim, but set the deadline to “not beyond three years”.
“As far as I’m concerned, I have made a promise that I will step down and that Anwar will succeed me,” he said in an interview with CNBC on the sidelines of the 34th Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Summit in Bangkok.
The timeline of his handover to Mr Anwar, which is a pact agreed within Pakatan Harapan (PH) during the 14th general election, has been a point of contention as the initial two-year deadline looms.
Mr Anwar’s party, Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR), has said in a statement that there was an agreement on Jan 7, 2018, for him to take over as the next prime minister after a period of two years.
During the CNBC interview, Dr Mahathir was asked if he would stay in office to see to the realisation of a goal to reduce Malaysia’s debt from 80 per cent of gross domestic product to 54 per cent, which he had said would need three years.
“No, I will not go beyond three years,” he said.
On Sunday, Mr Anwar said the transition plan with Dr Mahathir is a “done deal”.
Describing their weekly discussion as frank and genuine, Mr Anwar said it was unnecessary to talk about the transition issue but could not help acknowledging that there was a lot of speculation on the handover.
“I find it necessary to reaffirm the position and express my satisfaction with the ongoing transition process, (because) I see people tend to be very negative, even when the prime minister has reiterated his stand,” he told reporters after attending the PKR central committee meeting.
Mr Anwar said he was satisfied with his exchanges with Dr Mahathir, and that he did not have any doubt that the transition would take place.
In a press conference on Monday afternoon, Mr Anwar said he would clarify with Dr Mahathir on his remark.
He said the transition of power is not an issue, adding that he would continue to meet the prime minister on a weekly basis.
NO BLACK AND WHITE AGREEMENT: PPBM MEMBER
However, veteran politician Rais Yatim, who is now a supreme council member in Dr Mahathir’s Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (PPBM), told the Star that Dr Mahathir was not in a hurry to quit.
The former Cabinet minister alleged there was no agreement within PH for Mr Anwar to take over.
“I don’t see that there’s an agreement. In politics, there is no agreement unless it’s black and white … although PH voice this out, this is not something that is concrete that thou shall be the prime minister after two years,” he reportedly said.