NEW YORK • Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad said he expects to remain as Malaysia's leader for some three years, just a week after MP Anwar Ibrahim indicated that the Premier would step down after roughly two years.
"I promise that I would step down before the next election and give way to another candidate," Tun Dr Mahathir told a dialogue at the US Council on Foreign Relations in New York on Thursday, as reported by Bernama news agency.
"So, I may have at the most three years perhaps," he added.
The next general election is slated for 2023.
Dr Mahathir, 94, said that he now works "very tough" 18-hour days. "This is because I don't have much time" before stepping down, Ber-nama quoted him as saying.
Datuk Seri Anwar, in an interview with Bloomberg Television on Sept 18, said he expects to become prime minister around May next year, two years after Pakatan Harapan (PH) won power.
"There is an understanding that it should be around that time, but I don't think I should be too petty about the exact month," he said.
The handing over of the premiership from the seventh prime minister to the eighth has sometimes roiled Malaysian politics since the four-party PH alliance won federal power in last year's general election.
In an informal agreement before the polls that PH had expected to lose, Dr Mahathir was given the mandate to lead as prime minister before handing the baton to Mr Anwar, 72, who was then in jail.
Dr Mahathir leads the pro-Malay Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia with 27 seats in Parliament, and Mr Anwar is president of Parti Keadilan Rakyat with 50 seats, the biggest number of parliamentary seats held by a party.
Adding to tensions between supporters of the two leaders, Datuk A. Kadir Jasin - who is Dr Mahathir's media and communications adviser - said on Monday that there were no PH documents before the 2018 election mentioning a timeframe for the handover.