Malaysian politician Anwar Ibrahim says Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad will remain in power until after the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (Apec) meetings are over in November.
Malaysia plays host this year.
“I am inclined towards him leading the country until the Apec ends. But this matter would be finalised by the Pakatan Harapan presidential council meeting on Feb 21,” Anwar said in a statement.
Anwar – who has been designated as prime minister-in-waiting – also sounded off efforts by certain quarters to keep Mahathir in power until the end of the term in 2023.
“In a meeting, Tun Dr Mahathir and myself discussed about power transition. I brought up the issue since there is an effort from PAS, a group from Umno and some from Keadilan believed to be gathering signatures to support Tun Dr Mahathir’s leadership until the end of the term,” Anwar said.
Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) is led by Anwar but has long been split into two factions due to disagreements between the party leader and PKR deputy president Azmin Ali.
Although the Pakatan Harapan leadership had agreed before the historic May 2018 elections to install Anwar as Malaysia’s 8th prime minister, the consensus was not put onto paper.
“The prime minister is not involved in these efforts and had reiterated that he would relinquish the post as promised,” Anwar added in his statement, absolving Mahathir of the ploy to keep the Premier in power.
On Feb 8, a local news portal Malaya Post published an interview with Mahathir asking the 94-year-old about the pact’s power transition plan.
“We made a promise we have to hold onto it,” the Premier said. “I only became a prime minister because I got the support of my party and especially from the majority of Parliament lawmakers”.
Mahathir added: “If I refuse to step down, but the majority of Parliament rejects me, I will fall. This is the way of democracy. The ones holding power are actually members of the Lower House”.
For months now, various rumours of different plots to keep Anwar from taking power have been swirling in the political sphere. Both Mahathir and Anwar had come out in the past to reiterate that the transition plan remains in place despite concerns otherwise.
Following the most recent brouhaha, coming to Anwar’s defence was his wife, deputy prime minister Wan Azizah Wan Ismail.
“A promise is a promise,” she told reporters on Sunday.