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Mahathir says no timetable for handing over power

The Associated Press

Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad listens to questions during an interview with foreign media in Putrajaya, Malaysia, on Thursday.

The Associated Press PUTRAJAYA, Malaysia (AP) — Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad defended his government’s record on the anniversary of its election victory Thursday and reiterated that he will hand over power to his successor, Anwar Ibrahim, though he wasn’t clear on when.

Mahathir’s four-party alliance ousted the coalition that has been in power since independence in 1957 amid anger over then-leader Najib Razak’s massive financial scandal and the rising cost of living. But euphoria over the victory has faded and the new government has been accused of backsliding on reform promises in its election manifesto.

Mahathir told foreign journalists there had been hiccups in pushing through some reforms due to insufficient support in parliament for constitutional changes.

“The manifesto is for five years, not for one year, so we are working on that ... there are some promises that have been delayed because of legal problems. For example, certain changes we want to make require some changes in the constitution. For that we need a two-thirds majority” in parliament, he said.

Last year, the opposition-controlled senate rejected a bill to repeal a fake news ban rushed through parliament by the previous government ahead of elections. Attempts to abolish capital punishment faltered, and instead courts were given the power to decide whether to impose the death penalty only on some offenses.

The government has also withdrawn plans to ratify a U.N. anti-discrimination treaty and the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court after coming under pressure from the majority Muslim opposition.

Mahathir said in a televised address that some election promises such as abolishing highway tolls also can’t be done yet amid financial constraints following huge debts caused by the multibillion-dollar looting of the 1MDB state investment fund, economic mismanagement and expensive infrastructure projects.

Apart from 1MDB, the government had to spend 24 billion ringgit ($5.8 billion) to bail out land development authority Felda and Muslim pilgrimage fund Tabung Haji, he said. The government can’t call off a massive rail link project involving China due to a requirement for heavy compensation, but managed to get a sharp discount, he said.Speech

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