Malaysia's Mahathir says he will remain leader for 1-2 years
May 15, 2018 - 2:25 AM
KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia - Malaysia's 92-year-old Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad said Tuesday he will run the country for one to two years before stepping down, and that defeated leader Najib Razak could be charged soon in a massive corruption scandal.
Mahathir, who was prime minister for 22 years until 2003, left the ruling party he once led to join a four-party coalition that scored a stunning victory in last week's elections. He has agreed to hand over power to jailed reformist leader Anwar Ibrahim but has not previously given any timing.
Mahathir said Anwar, who was jailed on sodomy charges in a conviction criticized as politically motivated, will be freed Wednesday.
"In the initial stages, maybe lasting one or two years, I will be the prime minister and I will run the country," Mahathir told a Wall Street Journal conference via a video link. He said he needed time to fix the country's financial problems and that he expects to continue to play a role even after he steps down.
Once a high flyer in the ruling party, Anwar was convicted of sodomy and an additional charge of corruption in 1998 amid a power struggle with Mahathir. The firebrand politician was convicted of sodomy a second time in 2015 after his opposition alliance made strong gains in the past two elections. Anwar worked from his prison cell to forge a new opposition alliance by ending his two-decade feud with Mahathir, a gamble that paid off when the alliance won May 9 polls and ended the National Front's 60-year grip on power.
Mahathir was spurred out of retirement by a corruption scandal at 1MDB, a state fund set up by Najib that is being investigated by the U.S. and several other countries after Najib's associates allegedly stole and laundered $4.5 billion from it.
Mahathir told the conference that there will be "no deal" with Najib over the graft scandal.
"We are slowly getting to the bottom of things. Many of the senior officials are volunteering information, accompanied of course by documents. We think in a short while, we will have a case against him, we will be able to charge him," Mahathir said.
Mahathir has barred Najib and his wife from leaving the country. He has also ordered the attorney general who cleared Najib of any wrongdoing in 2016 to go on leave pending an investigation, while the head of the anti-graft body has resigned.
News from © The Associated Press, 2018