- Reuters, The Straits Times
Malaysia’s Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad said in an interview on Sunday (June 23) that he may hold on to the premiership for three years.
Previously, the PH coalition agreed for Mahathir to pass on the role to Anwar after two years in office.
Mahathir’s reaffirmation of a handover to Anwar comes amid a gay sex scandal that implicated PKR deputy president Azmin Ali.
Sources claim Azmin was targeted in the scandal as Mahathir had been “actively nurturing” him, leading some to see him as Anwar’s rival for the premiership.
One year before an initially scheduled handover to PKR head Anwar Ibrahim, Malaysia’s Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad has indicated he may hold on to the premiership for a year longer than agreed.
Previously, the Pakatan Harapan coalition had agreed for Mahathir to pass on the role to Anwar after two years in office, if they won GE14.
PKR, or the People’s Justice Party, is one of four political parties that forms the Pakatan Harapan coalition, of which Mahathir is chairman and Anwar is leader.
When asked about his plans to stay in office, the nonagenarian told CNBC in an interview on Sunday (June 23) that he would not stay “beyond three years” in the PM post.
With a return to office in 2018, this puts his latest projected handover date as 2021 – a year later than the initially agreed 2020.
CNBC quoted Mahathir as saying that he would step down even if he does not manage to reduce Malaysia’s national debt from 80 per cent of its GDP to 54 per cent – a goal the premier previously predicted would take three years to achieve.
“As far as I’m concerned, I have made a promise that I will step down and that Anwar will succeed me,” Mahathir said, adding that he would equip the Government to continue resolving the debt problem.
Mahathir’s new three-year timeline matches comments made by Anwar in February this year claiming that he expected to take power from Mahathir in less than two years’ time, Bloomberg reported.
Anwar said that his former mentor should be given space to govern effectively in “very difficult and trying times”, but that Mahathir had “made it very clear” he would not exceed two more years in power.
Mahathir’s reaffirmation of a handover to Anwar comes amid a gay sex scandal that has rocked PKR for the past fortnight and implicated Azmin Ali, Anwar’s former aide and the current PKR deputy president.
Citing six sources, Reuters reported on June 21 that Azmin had been targeted in the scandal because he was seen as Anwar’s rival.
Reuters’ report quoted a source saying that Mahathir planned to hand over power to Anwar unless the coalition reached a consensus on a different candidate.
It added that the PM had been “actively nurturing” Azmin by making him Economic Affairs Minister – a key ministry in Mahathir’s plan to reform Malaysia’s economy.
Azmin has claimed the sex tapes were an attempt to destroy his political career by someone within the party.
Meanwhile, Anwar – who has been himself been charged with sodomy in the past – publicly decried the attack as gutter politics and a “scurrilous attack” on Azmin.