Mahathir says he will hand over reigns to PKR’s Anwar Ibrahim after two years as PM

Malaysian Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad reiterated his promise to serve as interim Prime Minister for only two years before handing the reigns over to Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) President Anwar Ibrahim, despites calls from his party for him to stay on until the next general elections.

Speaking at the end of the Parti Peribumi Bersatu Malaysia (PBBM) annual assembly on 30 December, Dr Mahathir explained that the opposition’s goal before the 14th general election was to bring down Datuk Seri Najib Razak, who by then was drowning in countless scandals including the 1MDB issue. They knew this couldn’t be done with only the Malay votes.

“Once, we were the opposition and we formed a party and we hoped the party to gain the support from the Malays. However, if we can only garner the support of the Malays without other parties, I’m not sure we can win,” he said

As such, opposition factions including Bersatu and PKR decided to put aside their difference and come together under one banner – Pakatan Harapan (PH) – to work towards a common goal.

Mahathir said victory was only achievable with the combined efforts of all parties in the new coalition. With this, comes compromise.

“We only won because we had a coalition and to have this coalition, we discussed with our partners (DAP, PKR and Amanah). We have been negotiating with our colleagues and one of the conditions imposed is that this prime minister, also their former foe will only serve as an interim prime minister,” he added.

Mahathir was making reference to the fact that Anwar Ibrahim was once jailed under charges of sodomy during Mahathir’s first reign as Prime Minister. Many argued that the charges were politically motivated.

Regarding the recent GE14, Mahathir said the main concern was removing Najib from power and accepting the condition of a two-year term was a necessary sacrifice. Mahathir, who is also the Bersatu chairman, admitted that it was a little awkward at first to sit down and work together with an enemy. But over time, it became normal.

Mahathir also noted that many Bersatu members have pointed out that two years is too short a term for anyone to properly govern the country. He dismissed those comments, saying that people are entitled to their own opinions.

He added that when he had dinner with PKR President Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim, the apparent PM-in-waiting, seemed confident that the agreement would be honoured. They apparently did not discuss the matter of Mahathir’s term at all.

“I think he feels comfortable that he will succeed me, maybe in two years, I don’t know… I’m not going to be the prime minister until the next election,” he said.