SINGAPORE: Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) president Anwar Ibrahim has said that Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad has been consistent in his stance that there will be a transition of power, and that he, Anwar, will take over as premier.
Mr Anwar, who was speaking at a dialogue session during the Milken Institute Asia Summit on Thursday (Sep 19), was responding to a question on what would happen if the promised handover did not take place.
“I believe … that (Mahathir) has been very consistent (in saying) that Anwar will take over. Sometimes he’ll say (the transition will happen) in three years or two years, but that is Mahathir. You can't change him at 94,” said the Member of Parliament for Port Dickson.
“But the fact (is) that he has made no ambiguity in terms of a transition, that this is a transition government and Anwar will take over."
In an interview with Bloomberg Television on Wednesday (Sep 18), Mr Anwar said he expects to take over as Malaysian prime minister in the middle of next year.
The deadline of May 2020 is line with PKR’s stance that Mr Anwar would assume the highest post in the government two years after the 2018 general election, based on an agreement among component parties in the ruling Pakatan Harapan (PH) coalition.
At the dialogue on Thursday, Mr Anwar reiterated that he expects the transition of power to happen around that period but noted that it was “embarrassing” for Dr Mahathir to repeatedly face questions on when the exact date would be.
“It’s quite embarrassing for him, every single session he has with the media, he is asked, 'When will you surrender power?' I was there once when they asked him when was the right time," said Mr Anwar.
"Once he announces a specific date, he is considered a lame duck prime minister."
He added: “I don’t believe it is also fair to him to keep harping (on it). Knowing that it will be next year, (they ask) when are you going? … I think, god willing, it will happen."
Mr Anwar also joked that he was “one of the most patient political figures”, having been first tipped for the prime minister job when he served as Dr Mahathir’s deputy in the late 1990s, during the 94-year-old’s first stint as prime minister.
“I have been known as the prime-minister-in-waiting since 1999, so waiting for a few more months or years is not in question,” he added.
When Dr Mahathir led PH to their historic win over the Barisan Nasional in last year's election, Mr Anwar was serving a five-year jail term for sodomy, a charge he has said was politically motivated.
Days after the shock victory, Mr Anwar was granted a royal pardon from the Malaysian king. He returned to the political fray later that year after winning the Port Dickson by-election.
Dr Mahathir, who has called himself the “interim prime minister”, has reiterated that he would pass the baton to Mr Anwar as agreed, although he has not committed to a deadline for the handover.
There have been suggestions from some quarters for Dr Mahathir to serve a full term until the next general election, which is due in 2023.