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In Shocking Upset, 92-Year-Old Veteran Leader Mahathir Mohamad Sworn in as Malaysian Prime Minister

Former Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad and his opposition coalition Pakatan Harapan (PH) claimed a win in the Malaysian election on Thursday, meaning the 92-year-old veteran leader will be back in office after ruling the country for 22 years from 1981 to 2003.

The official result showed that his coalition alliance won 113 out of 222 seats, while the ruling Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition under the incumbent Najib Razak only secured 79 seats.

Razak admitted defeat, saying that he accepted the “choice of people.”

The opposition party’s victory was beyond expectation as the BN coalition had been in power since Malaysia gained independence from Britain in 1957. This coalition is dominated by the United Malays National Organisation (UMNO), Malaysia’s biggest party, which was led by Mahathir for two decades.

Mahathir teamed up with his former political rival Anwar Ibrahim to oust Razak, who has been under pressure after the 1MDB scandal in 2015.

What is the 1MDB scandal?

1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) was set up by the 64-year-old Razak in 2009, aimed at promoting economic development. However, the investment company grabbed attention after the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) reported that there was evidence of around $681 million of funds going to Razak’s personal bank account.

Razak, the son of Malaysia’s founding father Tun Abdul Razak, denied any wrongdoing, saying that the corruption allegation targeting him was a part of a blackmailing campaign to force him to step down from his post.

The company also denied transferring money to Razak. A tentative report showed that there haven’t been any suspicious findings so far.

Mahathir, once Razak’s mentor, repeatedly asked the incumbent to step down, but Razak refused to resign and maintained his innocence.

The corruption case has tarnished Razak’s public image, who once was dubbed as reformist when taking office for the first time in 2009. The case is believed to be one of the main factors behind the stunning defeat of the BN after 60 years in power.

What’s next for Mahathir?

After yesterday’s inauguration, Mahathir will be the world’s oldest elected prime minister. Many expect that he is going to apologize to his former deputy Anwar Ibrahim, whom Mahathir fired and sent to jail for sodomy.

Ibrahim openly opposed the veteran’s political view. However, the two reconciled last year ahead of the election. There was a strong reaction from social media when both high-profile figures shook hands and vowed to work together to beat Razak.

Mahathir stressed that he would not seek revenge against opponents. The elderly leader stated that he wanted to restore the law.

“If anybody breaks the law, and that includes the journalists, they will be brought before the court to be tried,” he stated.

Ibrahim will be freed from jail on May 15, as confirmed by top officials from his Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR).  While previous reports said that Mahatir’s former deputy will be set free on June 8. However, he will not be able to exercise his political rights, aside from receiving pardon from Yang di-Pertuan Agong Muhammad V of Kelantan.

Mahathir is expected to name Anwar Ibrahim, once his aide and enemy, as the charismatic leader’s successor.

Yasmeen Rasidi

Yasmeen is a writer and political science graduate of the National University, Jakarta. She covers a variety of topics for Citizen Truth including the Asia and Pacific region, international conflicts and press freedom issues. Yasmeen had worked for Xinhua Indonesia and GeoStrategist previously. She writes from Jakarta, Indonesia.

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