PRIME Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad has reiterated his promise to hand over power to PKR president Anwar Ibrahim although he cannot guarantee if his successor would be the “best person” for the job.
Dr Mahathir, who is in Qatar to attend the Doha Forum, said in an on-stage interview after delivering his speech that he would step down once he solved problems inherited from the Barisan Nasional government.
He was asked if 2020 would be his last year and if he felt Malaysia needed his leadership beyond next year.
“Well, I have promised I will step down once I solve major problems left by the previous government. I’ve promised I will step down and hand over to the candidate named by the coalition,” Dr Mahathir replied.
Asked if he thought Anwar was the “best candidate”, the Pakatan Harapan chairman said he “cannot guarantee who would be the best person to take over”.
“Because I’ve had bad experiences with my successors, when they took over, they did different things.”
Early last month, Dr Mahathir had told The Financial Times that no timeframe had been set for him to hand over power to Anwar, a plan agreed upon by PH parties ahead of the 14th general election in May 2018.
He had told the Times that “the actual time that I will (step down) depends on the problems that we face”.
The transition has been widely reported as taking place “in about two years” after PH formed the federal government last year.
Both Dr Mahathir and Anwar, despite their repeated assurances that the transition to the latter will take place, are often asked if it is still on the cards.
In Doha today, Dr Mahathir was also asked if he had any regrets about how his earlier relationship with Anwar had transpired, in a reference to his sacking of the latter as deputy prime minister in 1998, and the sodomy charges and imprisonment that followed.
“Before, of course, we were antagonistic with each other but we realised the country’s needs were more important than our personal feelings.
“So, we decided to forget the past and concentrate on developing the country. That is more important than our quarrels,” he said.
Dr Mahathir has said it is difficult to set a fixed timeline because of the country’s debt problems. The non-committal answer has irked several Anwar supporters in PKR who have publicly attacked Dr Mahathir, who is also PH chairman.
Anwar has publicly stated that he and Dr Mahathir have agreed that a fixed date should not be stated in public as it could undermine the current prime minister.