Kuala Lumpur—Speculation has abounded in Malaysia of late, specifically concerning who will succeed current Prime Minister Dr Tun Mahathir Mohamad, who said earlier this week that he would step down as head of state this year just as he has pledged, but only after the country played host to the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit, scheduled for this November.
The position has long been presumed to be handed over to Malaysia’s perpetual Prime-Minister-in-waiting and Dr Mahathir’s longtime rival, Anwar Ibrahim, due to an agreement made before the 2018 elections, although a dance of “will he or won’t he?” has been playing out between them ever since Dr Mahathir won the election.
However, speculation as to who exactly will succeed Dr Mahathir has been running rife, with Anwar’s own wife put forth as a viable candidate. If Wan Azizah Wan Ismail ascends to the premiership, she will be the first female Prime Minister in the country’s history.
Wan Azizah has been the Deputy Prime Minister of Malaysia and the Minister of Women, Family and Community Development, assuming these positions after the last General Election. Moreover, despite the rivalry between Dr Mahathir and her, she is part of the inner circle of the Prime Minister, a report in the Nikkei Asian Review says.
A source told the publication, “It’s also possible that Mahathir could hand over the reins to Deputy Prime Minister Wan Azizah Wan Ismail. Mahathir has been very close to Wan Azizah lately, asking her to chair high-level government committees and consulting her on every major government decision.”
This, the source said, would put the onus of whether to hand over the position of the country’s Chief Executive to Anwar or Wan Azizah.
“It’s like he’s grooming Wan Azizah to take over and let her decide if she wants to give [the premiership] to Anwar after that,” he added.
However, the possibility of someone else ascending to the premiership is present, given the popularity of Azmin Ali, the country’s economic affairs minister, with the supporters of Dr Mahathir, who are sure to back him should be make a bid to be Prime Minister.
Like Wan Azizah, Azmin also enjoys a close relationship with Dr Mahathir, and has been his companion on overseas trip and stands by his side at important events.
Dr Mahathir has announced that he is willing to step down in the next nine months, with no fixed date for his resignation as yet. On Friday, February 21, the presidential council will hold a high level meeting wherein the specifics of the Prime Minister’s resignation will be discussed.
The supporters of Anwar have asked Dr Mahathir to step down by May, two years after the last election, based on agreements made then.
Dr Mahathir said this week that he will be chairing the APEC meeting. “I have said that I am prepared to resign anytime when asked. But my promise to resign remains, and whatever decision made (by the presidential council), I will only resign after APEC.
I’m going to be the chair,” he told members of the media on Tuesday, February 18. —/TISG