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KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 19 — Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad may be given a special advisory role after he steps down, his successor-in-waiting Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim said in an interview with Singapore’s Channel News Asia (CNA) aired this morning.
Anwar said the governing Pakatan Harapan coalition can make use of Dr Mahathir’s expertise and immense experience even if he is not accorded a special position within the succeeding government.
“I don’t believe after extensive discussion with Dr Mahathir he’s interested in having a position in government,” Anwar told CNA’s Melissa Goh, who conducted the interview.
“But I think we should utilise his expertise and experience to assist and formulate some of our policies, or even assist to help in explaining or establishing contacts locally, domestically and internationally,” he added.
Anwar told CNA that he does not believe Dr Mahathir would completely retire from politics, and that the prime minister would continue to serve the country during his retirement.
“Well he doesn’t retire in terms of public service; his commitment and love for the country and I think I share his views. We don’t actually retire in that sense...you retire from office. You don’t retire from the struggle or assisting the poor,” he said.
Rumours of friction between the two leaders have circulated after followers from Anwar’s camp accused Dr Mahathir of conspiring to block the former’s succession, a view reinforced by PKR’s move to force a by-election in Port Dickson, Negri Sembilan.
Some political observers believe the move was meant to hasten Anwar’s return to Parliament and mount pressure on Dr Mahathir to step down earlier.
Both leaders, however, have repeatedly denied the allegation, with Dr Mahathir giving his assurance that his former deputy will succeed him when the time is right.
In the interview with CNA, Anwar was coy about the allegations and said the timeline for the succession is not an issue.
He said while there were differences in leadership “styles”, he pledged undivided support for Dr Mahathir, saying it was his duty to strengthen the government under the present prime minister.
The PKR president also said that Dr Mahathir must be commended for his remarkable performance as prime minister thus far.
“I also acknowledge that our styles are different I mean I don’t believe that we must insist that his style must change,” the former deputy prime minister said.
“What is important is Mahathir has done remarkably well in this new government and he has shown to be consistent. And I think it is my duty, my task to support him to ensure that he is effective and strong.”
Anwar also declared that Dr Mahathir has the full support of all coalition partners.
Dr Mahathir, at 93, made a shock comeback after he led PH to end Barisan Nasional’s six-decade grip on power in the May 9 election.
He has said he wants to retire after two years in office, but later suggested that he may extend his stay to see through reforms.