KUALA LUMPUR, June 24 — Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad has reportedly said that he “will not go beyond three years” as prime minister, amid the renewed spotlight on his succession plans for Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim.
Speaking to US-based CNBC in Bangkok where he is attending the 34th Asean Summit, Dr Mahathir said he has made a promise that he would step down and that PKR president Anwar would succeed him.
When asked by CNBC if he would stay on in office to reduce Malaysia’s debt from 80 per cent of gross domestic product to 54 per cent as previously reported, Dr Mahathir told the news outfit: “No, I will not go beyond three years.”
“As far as I’m concerned, I have made a promise that I will step down and that Anwar will succeed me,” he was quoted as saying prior to that.
Instead, Dr Mahathir said his priority was to enable Malaysia to “resolve the debt problem” even after he steps down.
The transition issue has been a contentious one. Although Dr Mahathir has repeatedly stated that he will hand over the PM’s post to Anwar, no formal timeframe has been set.
Some within Pakatan Harapan (PH) also feel that Dr Mahathir should be allowed a full term to carry out the coalition’s reform pledges.
In addition, PH secretariat chief Datuk Saifuddin Abdullah had said in January that the length of Dr Mahathir’s term has never been discussed at the pact’s presidential council’s meetings.
In February, Anwar reiterated the narrative of a smooth transition process, saying he expects to be prime minister in not more than two years’ time, but stressed that Dr Mahathir must be accorded enough space to govern effectively during “very difficult and trying times”.
Over the weekend, Tan Sri Rais Yatim from Dr Mahathir’s party Bersatu had insisted that there is no black and white agreement to hand over power to Anwar.
In response, Anwar said last night he did not doubt that Dr Mahathir would hand power to him as PH had promised in the 2018 general election.