KUALA LUMPUR: There has never been an agreed timeline of two years for Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad to hand over to Parti Keadilan Rakyat's Anwar Ibrahim, Kedah Chief Minister Mukhriz Mahathir said on Thursday (Jul 11).
In an interview with Nikkei Asian Review, Mr Mukhriz, who is Dr Mahathir's son, said that while Pakatan Harapan’s (PH) presidential council is aware of an agreement between the two on the country’s premiership, a timeframe was not fixed.
“There was no agreement that it has to be two years. There may have been suggestions like that, but nothing was stated on paper or in verbal agreement,” he reportedly said.
PH, a coalition of four parties, defeated Barisan Nasional in the May 2018 polls. Its victory saw the return of Dr Mahathir to the country's top position, with a condition that Mr Anwar would take over in due time.
Describing himself as the “interim prime minister,” Dr Mahathir has reiterated that he would honour the agreement, but remained coy on when he would pass the baton.
On his part, Mr Anwar had appealed to the people to give Dr Mahathir space to carry out his duties, adding that details of the succession plan would be worked out between the two of them.
Last month, Dr Mahathir said in an interview with CNBC that he would not stay as prime minister "beyond three years", prompting Mr Anwar to say the transition plan is a "done deal". Dr Mahathir later denied saying he would stay on for three years.
Mr Mukhriz’s latest comments contradicted an earlier statement issued by PKR in February, which stated that an agreement was reached and announced on Jan 7, 2018 that Dr Mahathir would be the prime minister and Mr Anwar would take over as the eighth prime minister after a period of two years.
PKR’s worry of Dr Mahathir reneging on his promise had its roots in the bitter battle between the two political figures. Mr Anwar, who was then deputy prime minister, was sacked by then prime minister Dr Mahathir in 1998 over sodomy and corruption allegations.
Mr Anwar was released from prison in 2004, but was sentenced to another jail term in 2015 on a second sodomy allegation. He was granted a royal pardon following PH’s victory in the 14th general election and was subsequently elected as a member of parliament through a by-election in Port Dickson.
MAHATHIR SHOULD BE GIVEN AMPLE TIME, SAYS MUKHRIZ
In the Thursday report, Mr Mukhriz said the general consensus among PH component parties was to give Dr Mahathir ample time to repair the country’s economic situation before Mr Anwar takes over.
“He (Dr Mahathir) should be given enough time to do what he wants to do. Although we acknowledge his age, he has not shown any signs of slowing down,” he said. Dr Mahathir turned 94 on Wednesday.
While denying that there is political tussle within PH, Mr Mukhriz also rubbished talks that Economic Affairs Minister Azmin Ali is Dr Mahathir’s preferred candidate as the next prime minister.
There was no dispute among PH component parties about Mr Anwar’s position as the prime minister-in-waiting, he added.
“My sense is that since the majority believes that Anwar is the appointed heir, he (Dr Mahathir) should be given enough time to do what he needs to do,” he said.
As for himself, Mr Mukhriz said he was not “really ambitious” and did not harbour a goal to become a prime minister.
“I won’t on my own work on trying to move up the ladder as if it is given that I must be the prime minister one day,” he stressed.
“I am open and it really depends on the leadership at that time on where I’m suited best.”