KUALA LUMPUR: Dr Mahathir Mohamad said on Tuesday (Jan 14) he would step down as Malaysia’s Prime Minister if that is the decision of Pakatan Harapan’s (PH) presidential council, following fresh calls for him to set a leadership transition date.
“I think this will be decided by all four parties together, whether they want me to go or not to go.
“As far as I am concerned, if they want me to go, I’ll go now,” he said, according to local media.
The handover of the prime ministership to Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) president Anwar Ibrahim has been a topic of interest since Dr Mahathir, 94, returned to helm the country following the May 2018 general election.
Under a PH agreement, Mr Anwar, who was released from prison on a royal pardon days after PH’s historic win, would succeed Dr Mahathir as the next prime minister.
It is generally thought that this handover would take place within two years, but the timeline has been a matter of contention among PH politicians.
On Monday, several PKR members of parliament pressed Dr Mahathir to pave the way for Anwar to take over as the head of government in May instead of November. May marks the two-year anniversary of PH taking over the federal administration.
Speaking at a forum titled “Should Malaysia Wait until November for Transition?”, Mr Wong Chen, the Kelana Jaya MP, said certainty over the handover timeline would inject confidence in local domestic players to invest in the country. When that happens, foreign investors would follow suit, he added.
“From the economic front, there is a clear argument that we need to have clarity and certainty of the timing of the transition. And the mood is the faster the better,” he said, according to a transcript of his speech.
Mr Wong suggested that a Mahathir-led Malaysia has not seen an economic boost because “the tycoons, investors and bankers are not sure what the short-term political future looks like”.
He added that a quick transition would also enable effective policies, as the process of introducing a new policy is time-consuming.
On the politics front, Mr Wong cautioned that PH politicians need sufficient time to win back support before entering the 15th general election, due to happen in 2023.
Recent development in the political arena, including the cooperation between United Malays National Organisation and Parti Islam Se-Malaysia as well as PH’s defeat in the Tanjung Piai by-election, pointed to an “extremely tough” fight for PH in GE15, he elaborated.
So far, Dr Mahathir has refrained from committing to an exact handover date, while reiterating that he would keep his promise of passing the baton to Mr Anwar.
He most recently told Reuters in an interview that he would not hand over before the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit, which Malaysia is hosting in November this year.