By Muzliza Mustafa and Lex Radz
Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad said he would decide the best time to step down as Malaysia’s leader after meeting on Friday night with Anwar Ibrahim, the PM in waiting, and other members of the Pakatan Harapan ruling coalition’s presidential council.
The 94-year-old prime minister said fellow leaders of the council trusted him to make the right decision in transferring power.
“We discussed in length the future of the party. And finally, I do not have to repeat what has been said – there were two opinions and I am proud that, in the end, they left the decision to me,” he told reporters in Putrajaya, the country’s administrative capital.
“And I have said the transition will happen after APEC, but there is no time, no date, no nothing set,” he said, referring to the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum, which Malaysia will host in November.
“I will decide when I will step down. It is up to me. They have full confidence in me,” Mahathir said.
Flanked by Anwar and Anwar’s wife, Deputy Prime Minister Wan Azizah Wan Ismail, Mahathir spoke to reporters for about seven minutes. Earlier, the three met privately with other coalition leaders before conducting a meeting of the full council.
Both Mahathir and Anwar told reporters that the issue of Anwar’s succession as prime minister was not discussed Friday evening.
“That didn’t arise. The decision is for me to make after APEC,” Mahathir said.
Anwar said he pushed for the coalition to support Mahathir and allow him to govern the country as he saw fit.
“Our stance is clear. There is no question of our commitment to ensure that Mahathir, as the prime minister will be able to carry out his duties with our full support,” Anwar told reporters, adding that Mahathir would determine the right time for the transfer of power.
“In the meantime, I have to be patient,” Anwar said, repeating words that he had articulated months ago.
Mahathir and Anwar, who had served as deputy prime minister during Mahathir’s earlier tenure as prime minister, formed the Pakatan Harapan (Alliance of Hope) coalition to take on and defeat Prime Minister Najib Razak’s Barisan Nasional coalition in the May 2018 general election.
In the run-up to the polls, Anwar, who was then in prison on a sodomy conviction, formed a pact with Mahathir, in which Mahathir agreed to hand the reins of government to Anwar after two years in office. Mahathir took the oath of office on May 10, 2018.
After the election, Anwar received a royal pardon, was freed from prison and later elected to parliament in a by-election.
Following another meeting with Mahathir last November, Anwar issued a statement to stress that the power transition plan must be done peacefully and properly in a reasonable timeframe and through mutual understanding.