Malaysia's Anwar says don't pressure him or PM Mahathir over leadership handover

President of Parti Keadilan Rakyat Anwar Ibrahim (left) and Malaysia's Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad during a campaign ahead of by-election in Port Dickson, Malaysia, on Oct 8, 2018. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

KUALA LUMPUR (THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - Malaysian politician Anwar Ibrahim said on Thursday (Feb 20) there should be no pressure placed on him or Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad over the much-anticipated leadership transition, just a day ahead of a crucial Pakatan Harapan (PH) coalition meeting.

Datuk Seri Anwar, president of Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR), reiterated Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad's stand that he would be relinquishing his post as premier only after the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (Apec) summit that Malaysia is hosting in November.

"In my discussion with the Prime Minister, it will be after Apec. So we will deal with this and I don't think anyone should be put under pressure - neither me nor Tun Dr Mahathir.

"And again, I reiterate that he (Dr Mahathir) should be given latitude because both of us and the Pakatan Harapan council have decided that the change would be smooth, peaceful and orderly, and we still continue to work as a team," he told reporters on the sidelines of an event.

PH's presidential council is meeting on Friday (Feb 21), with widespread expectations that Dr Mahathir will be pressured to give a date on when he would step down.

The leaders of PH had agreed before the May 2018 general election that Dr Mahathir would hand over the country's prime ministership to Mr Anwar, who was then in jail, should the four-party coalition win power.

Mr Anwar's supporters have been agitating for the handover to happen by May this year - just three months away - the two-year anniversary of when PH unexpectedly ousted the Barisan Nasional coalition.

The PH leadership agreement did not have a specific date on when the handover should take place.

On the flip side, opposition parties Umno and Parti Islam SeMalaysia, along with some lawmakers in PH, have allegedly been collecting statutory declarations to ensure that Dr Mahathir will stay on as prime minister until the next general election, which is due in 2023.

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Dr Mahathir, 94, on Wednesday (Feb 19) said he would step down only after the Apec summit, but did not give an exact date.

Mr Anwar, 72, asked if he would seek an exact date for the handover in leadership, said: "No, we will discuss it."

He also expressed his confidence that discussions on the power transition would be brief.

"The transition is part of the deal and it can be resolved in half an hour.

"The focus is on the economy," he said, referring to Malaysia's slowing economy, which has been impacted further by the coronavirus outbreak.

Mr Anwar said it was also "not in the plan" for him to join the Mahathir Cabinet before the leadership transition.

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