Mahathir Mohamad, who ruled Malaysia with an iron fist from 1981 to 2003 and now, with a second innings at the age of 92, the oldest elected leader in the world, was sworn in as Prime Minister at about 9:50 p.m. on Thursday May 9, 2018 by Malaysia’s constitutional ruler, King Muhammad V, following a momentous vote in which scandal-plagued incumbent Najib Razak was soundly beaten at the polls by his former mentor. His opposition won a simple majority in the Malaysian Parliament with 112 seats to the ruling party’s 76 seats, the first change of government in 61 years since independence from the British in 1957.
- Dr Mahathir Mohamad was one of the first members of the United Malay National Organisation (UMNO) which was formed to seek independence from Britain.
- He stood for parliament in 1964, lost his seat five years later, and was expelled from the UMNO after criticising Malaysia’s first Prime Minister, Abdul Rahman, following Malay-Chinese race riots.
- He re-joined the party in the early 1970s and became leader in 1981.
- Mahathir ruled Malaysia for 22 years which made him the country’s longest-serving Prime Minister.
- He was credited with modernising Malaysia during his time as leader and the economy boomed during the 1990s.
- Kuala Lumpur’s ‘Petronas Twin Towers’ development was inspired by his vision to be a global player.
- Mahathir was also known for his heavy-handed approach, which saw opponents imprisoned and courts subjugated.
- Most famously, he fell out with his deputy prime minister, Anwar Ibrahim, during the Asian financial crisis in 1997 and sacked him in 1998.
- Anwar then led mass political reform protests and was arrested under Malaysia’s controversial Internal Security Act and jailed for sodomy and corruption.
- Mahathir emerged from political retirement in 2016, buried the hatched with Anwar Ibrahim, and reunited in a court room.
- Together their alliance exploited public disenchantment over the cost of living and a multi-billion-dollar scandal that had dogged Najib since 2015.
- Mahathir said that one of his first actions would be to seek a royal pardon for Anwar.
- Before the poll he had promised to step aside once Anwar was free and let him become prime minister within two years
- His alliance of four parties trounced the Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition of now former Prime Minister Najib Razak, who was once Mahathir’s protege but became his most bitter rival.
- Anwar’s wife, Wan Azizah, endorsed Mahathir and served as his deputy in the coalition to oust Najib. She was one of the opposition candidates elected.
- Mahathir repeated a promise to repeal a goods and services tax (GST) introduced by Najib and review foreign investments, including major infrastructure projects that are part of China’s Belt and Road initiative.
- However, Global ratings agency Moody’s said some of his campaign promises, including scrapping GST and a reintroduction of fuel subsidies, could be credit-negative for Malaysia’s sovereign debt rating.
At a press conference after being sworn in, Mahathir reassured the financial community and said he would prioritise stabilising the economy and returning billions of dollars lost in a corruption scandal at state fund 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB), “We believe that we can get most of the 1MDB money back … we have to increase the confidence of investors in the administration”.