KUALA LUMPUR, July 31 — Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad has once more said he will keep his promise to step down sometime this term and let Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim take over as head of government, come what may.
In an interview with Imran Garda of the Turkish news channel TRT World aired earlier this week, Dr Mahathir said he has no intention to procrastinate handing over the leadership to Anwar even if his popularity may be higher.
“I have already agreed that when I step down, he will take over from me as the prime minister.
“I’m not going against my promise. Whatever happens, I will stick to the promise I made,” he replied when asked about the latest developments facing Pakatan Harapan with its biggest component, PKR, seen to be fractious with a rift between its president Anwar and the latter’s deputy Datuk Seri Azmin Ali amid a sex scandal.
“The thing is that during the time when we were fighting against Najib, we regard putting down Najib as more important that our personal relations,” Dr Mahathir added.
The 94-year-old said he hopes to recover sovereign money lost in the 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) financial scandal.
He indicated that he will not delay stepping down mid-term even though he did not provide a timeline for the handover, saying only that it “is very difficult to predict”.
“The thing is that at this moment we see already a lot of improvements in the situation of the country.
“And I think in maybe a year or two we would be able to reverse the process so much to the country would be able to succeed as before,” he said.
An online survey by YouGov released last Tuesday showed Dr Mahathir was Malaysia’s most admired man in 2019.
In response, Dr Mahathir said the result was likely due to a yearning among Malaysians for the time when he was first prime minister between 1981 and 2003 and took the country forward, turning it from an agrarian economy to a regional industrial powerhouse.
“They identify me with the development of Malaysia and they believe I would be able to reverse the process and maybe make Malaysia again an Asian tiger,” he said.
Asked what he thinks the public wants, Dr Mahathir said the nation wants a good life, to be able to live in a country that is people and enjoy a good standard of living.
“They do not want the country to be robbed,” he said.