NEW YORK: Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad said on Thursday (Sep 26) he will bow out before the next general election.
“I promise that I would step down before the next election and give way to another candidate. So I may have at the most three years perhaps,” he said at a dialogue at the Council on Foreign Relations, a think tank in New York.
The 94-year-old said he needed to accomplish “a few things” during that three years, Bernama reported.
The 15th general election has to be called by 2023.
The power transition has been a subject of interest ever since Dr Mahathir returned to the political arena and led Pakatan Haparan (PH) to dislodge Barisan Nasional, a coalition he once led for 22 years.
Under a PH agreement, Mr Anwar Ibrahim would succeed Dr Mahathir as the next prime minister. Mr Anwar was released from prison on a royal pardon, days after PH’s historic win in the May 2018 elections.
Mr Anwar’s Parti Keadilan Rakyat insisted that an agreement was reached for him to take over as Malaysia’s eighth prime minister after two years.
Dr Mahathir, who called himself an “interim prime minister”, had stressed that he would honour his promise to pass the baton to Mr Anwar, but has so far refrained from committing to an exact date.
In an interview with Bloomberg Television last Wednesday, Mr Anwar said he expects to take over next year.
Responding to a question on whether May 2020 is the date of the succession, he said: “There is an understanding that it should be around that time, but I don’t think I should be too petty about the exact month.”
Speaking at a dialogue session during the Milken Institute Asia Summit the next day, Mr Anwar said Dr Mahathir has been very consistent in his stance that a power transition will take place and that Mr Anwar is the candidate for the top post.
“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,” he said.
In response to Mr Anwar's remarks, Dr Mahathir said he would set the time of the handover.
"I will announce later, but I will keep my promise," he told reporters last Friday, according to local media.