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Mahathir will not stay PM ‘beyond three years’

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M'sia Prime Minister says he will keep his promise to hand over reins to Anwar

PETALING JAYA: Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad said he will step down within three years and hand over the reins to Parti Keadilan Rakyat president Anwar Ibrahim.

"As far as I am concerned, I have made a promise that I will step down and that Anwar will succeed me," he told CNBC in an interview in Bangkok on Saturday where he was attending an Asean summit.

Dr Mahathir had said the government needs three years to reduce Malaysia's debt from 80 per cent of gross domestic product to 54 per cent.

When asked if he would stay in office to see through that goal, Dr Mahathir said: "No, I will not go beyond three years."

Dr Mahathir said his priority is to enable Malaysia to "resolve this (debt) problem" even after he steps down.

The issue of power transition has been brought to the fore recently as no formal time frame has been set for it to happen.

In February, Mr Anwar had 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 14th General Election, Pakatan component parties agreed that if they had won, Dr Mahathir would be the premier for two years. Mr Anwar insisted there is no problem with the transition of power.

"I have weekly meetings with the Prime Minister. The transition of power is not an issue, period. There is no problem between both of us. What is important is that we agree that what is promised will be fulfilled," he told reporters yesterday.

When asked if he would wait longer than the agreed two years, Mr Anwar said he would clarify this with Dr Mahathir.

"That is only conjecture," he said of Dr Mahathir's remarks that he would stay on as premier for three years.

Meanwhile, Dr Mahathir continued to back Economic Affairs Minister Azmin Ali over the sex video scandal. Former civil servant Haziq Abdullah Abdul Aziz claimed he was one of the men in the video and the other was Mr Azmin. Mr Azmin has vehemently denied the accusation.

Said Dr Mahathir: "I don't think (Mr Azmin) is so stupid as to do that and get caught in a picture (videos) like that.

"I think somebody is out to bring him down," he said in a press conference after officiating the Asia Oil and Gas conference yesterday.

Dr Mahathir said anyone can have his pictures implicated in such compromising positions, thanks to technology.

Asked if there was a need for Mr Azmin to step down, Dr Mahathir said: "No, there is no need just because people in other countries do something.

"I know in one country if a plane crashes in the airfield, the minister of transport resigns or throws himself out of a building, but it is not our way," he said. - THE STAR