Muslim Times(Web Desk) – Malaysia’s 92-year-old new Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad says he may step down after only “one or two years” in office.
“(In) an initial stage, maybe lasting one or two years, I will be the prime minister,” Mahathir said in an interview with The Wall Street Journal CEO Council in Tokyo via a video link from Malaysia on Tuesday.
“I will play a role in the background even when I step down,” he added, however.
Mahathir’s four-party coalition won a historic election victory over former leader Najib Razak on May 9.
Mahathir did say why he would step down after the short period of time, but his age could be one reason. At 92, he is the world’s oldest elected leader.
The new prime minister also said jailed opposition leader and coalition partner Anwar Ibrahim would be freed on Wednesday. He said the reformist politician, after his release, would need to seek a seat in parliament and then might be given a cabinet post, but would play the same role in the coalition as leaders of the other three parties in the alliance except Mahathir himself, who is the prime minister.
Anwar and Mahathir agreed in 2016 to join forces with the aim of ousting scandal-hit Najib Razak and his Barisan Nasional (BN) alliance.
The alliance between Mahathir — who has been prime minister before — and Anwar came after years of feud as the latter was first jailed after Mahathir dismissed him as deputy prime minister in 1998. The 70-year-old Anwar is still serving a five-year jail term after he was found guilty on a sodomy charge in 2015. He and his supporters say the charge was politically motivated.
Asked about the possible prosecution of his predecessor, Mahathir said he thought that “in a short while,” the government could have a case against Najib.
Mahathir on Saturday stopped Najib from leaving the country, and sacked the attorney general who had cleared him of involvement in a multi-billion-dollar corruption scandal.
Najib is accused of misappropriating billions of dollars through his pet project state fund 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB), and making deposits into his private accounts worth up to $1 billion.
1MDB is currently under international probes in at least six countries, including Switzerland and Singapore, over charges of money laundering and bribery.
Najib denies any wrongdoing in connection with losses at the fund.
In his Tuesday remarks, Mahathir said whether Najib would serve time in jail would depend on the results of a probe into the scandal.
“If there is no case, we don’t go for detention without trial,” he said.