Malaysia Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad said he’ll step down only after resolving problems inherited by the previous administration, raising questions about a handover in power that’s expected to take place before mid-2020.
The 94-year-old leader didn’t give a definitive time frame on when he’ll step down or whom his top choice would be. He has previously said he’ll hand over power to former rival Anwar Ibrahim once the country is on good footing.
“I have promised that I will step down once I have resolved some of the major problems that have been left by the previous government,” Mahathir said in response to a question on whether his leadership is needed beyond 2020. “I promised that I will step down and give the leadership to a candidate that has been named by the coalition.”
To another question on whether Anwar would be the best person to take over, Mahathir said he couldn’t make any guarantees because he’s had bad experiences, when identified successors went on to do “different things” after taking over.
Anwar, who was among Mahathir’s deputy prime ministers when he was premier between 1981 and 2003, was ousted and jailed for charges of sodomy and abuse of power. The two became bitter rivals before teaming up for the elections last year to overthrow Najib Razak, the former premier Mahathir had previously supported.
Anwar, who cut a deal to become the country’s next prime minister ahead of 2018 polls, said in September there’s “no ambiguity” about a handover of power, adding that “this is a transition government.” In an interview with Bloomberg, Anwar indicated the handover should happen around May 2020.