Mahathir says promise on leadership transition remains but PM must hold majority in Parliament

Malaysian PM Mahathir Mohamad said that the decision-making power on the premiership was in the hands of MPs, in an interview on Feb 8, 2020. PHOTO: REUTERS

PETALING JAYA (THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - A promise on the leadership transition remains but a prime minister must command the support of the majority in Parliament, said Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad.

"We have promised, " he said in an interview with Malaya Post TV on Saturday night (Feb 8). "Even if I wanted to break the promise, I can only be PM if I have the majority support in Parliament.

"But if the majority of the Dewan Rakyat rejected me, I will fall, that's democracy," he said.

"Members of Parliament hold the power to decide. If I don't have the majority support, I can't be the prime minister."

He said this when asked to comment on the leadership transition as certain factions in Parliament, including the Parti Islam SeMalaysia (PAS), had openly expressed their views that Tun Dr Mahathir should serve the full term instead of handing over power to Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) president Anwar Ibrahim.

Dr Mahathir noted that Parliament could even reject anyone nominated by a party with the highest number of seats.

The issue of power transition was brought to the fore as no formal timeframe has been set for it.

However, the 94-year-old Dr Mahathir has repeatedly said that he would abide by his promise to hand over the premiership to Anwar.

Last February, Anwar said he expected to be prime minister in no more than two years' time, adding that Dr Mahathir must be given enough space to govern effectively during "very difficult and trying times".

Prior to the 2018 general election, leaders from Dr Mahathir's Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia, and its allies under the Pakatan Harapan coalition PKR, the Democratic Action Party and Parti Amanah Negara agreed in a consensus that Anwar would be the eighth Prime Minister, replacing Dr Mahathir, should the coalition win.

Dr Mahathir noted that the decision-making power on the premiership was in the hands of MPs.

He also said politicians treat issues faced by the rakyat seriously.

"If they (politicians) are only interested in positions and do not care about the rakyat's problem, they won't last.

"If we fail to resolve the woes faced by the majority, the rakyat will reject us (in the next general election), " he said.

Dr Mahathir also revealed that DAP was not happy that he attended Gerakan's Chinese New Year Open House.

"They are my friends. It is a social event, not a political event. I can't ditch my friends because of political differences, " he said.

Dr Mahathir also denied he was trying to create a new political alliance following talks of a formation of Muafakat Nasional.

"My meetings with political rivals was misconstrued as attempts to forge a new alliance, " he said.

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.