Dr M is expected to maintain his position as PM for at least the next 18 months
By P PREM KUMAR & ALIFAH ZAINUDDIN / Pic By MUHD AMIN NAHARUL
Prime Minister (PM) Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s plan to put the country back on track will need more than the two years he had initially envisioned.
The 93-year-old, who became the world’s oldest elected leader, is expected to maintain his position as PM for at least the next 18 months, after which the leadership baton will likely be passed on to PKR president Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim as agreed in a closed-door deal.
“I thought if I was given two years, I would be able to solve some of the major problems. But, I will not achieve that in two years, I would have succeeded in putting the party and country back on track,” Dr Mahathir told The Malaysian Reserve in an exclusive interview recently.
Since winning the May 9 election, Dr Mahathir’s administration has had to deal with a larger than expected debt burden of RM1 trillion, as well as a great distrust in government machineries.
This has pushed a lot of Pakatan Harapan’s manifesto promises on the back-burner, with only 21 of the 60 promises in 100 days fulfilled — a progression rate of 35%.
In his 100-day address, the PM said Malaysia should be known for its integrity, and thus needs a drastic comprehensive plan to reform all aspects of governance. However, with a relatively inexperienced Cabinet team, reformation efforts will take more time, he said.
Many speculated that Pakatan Harapan’s win was due to his influence and the formation of Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia.
Dr Mahathir’s response was simple: “The proof of the pudding is in the eating.
“I don’t know. There are many in the party who believe that it is not me at all. It is some other factors…the high cost of living and all that.
“If you want to prove it, of course I will have to withdraw and see what happens, but the election is over. But, even after the election is over, can the party stay together? That can be tested.
“I don’t want to test it because the damage it will cause may be irreparable. But, if there are members of the party who feels that I am an obstruction to the party’s performance — that I am a negative factor — I will be quite willing to step down and let them go on,” he said.
Following Anwar’s release from prison immediately after the general election and his resumption of the PKR stewardship, it is widely speculated that the 71-year-old will replace Dr Mahathir as PM sooner.
“I have promised that after me, he would be the PM. It is a very strange promise because normally, of course, it is the will of majority that should be considered. But since we have made that promise, we should adhere to that promise.
“The question is, how long? How long do you keep me and how long before he takes over? This period is not actually stated,” he said.
Dr Mahathir said most assumptions point to a period of two years, while others believe that once Anwar is free to contest, he should take over.
“Of course, this is subject to the wish of the majority. If they feel he should take over now, and it is the wish of the majority, I have no way of saying no. I am there because I am supported. If I am not supported, I will not be there. It is up to the coalition to determine,” Dr Mahathir said.