Comeback king Mahathir Mohamad sworn in as Prime Minister of Malaysia

Mahathir Mohamad

In a remarkable political comeback the former long-term leader of Malaysia, Mahathir Mohamad, has been sworn in as prime minister again after a shock election victory, 15 years after he stood down.

The man who governed for more than two decades and made Malaysia an Asian powerhouse has become, at the age of 92, the world’s oldest elected leader.

He came out of retirement and defected to the opposition to take on and beat former protege Najib Razak.

His historic win ousted the Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition, which has been in power since independence in 1957. The official results showed the opposition Pakatan Harapan – the Alliance of Hope – secured 113 of the 222 seats being contested, including some which have only ever been held by the government. BN took 79 seats.

Rising living costs and long-running allegations of corruption weighed heavily on many voters and saw them peel away from Mr Najib and his once unshakeable coalition.

Mr Mahathir was prime minister, at the head of the BN coalition, for 22 years, from 1981 until he stepped down in 2003.

Under his leadership, Malaysia became one of the Asian tigers – the group of countries which saw their economies expand rapidly in the 1990s. But he was an authoritarian figure who used controversial security laws to lock up his political opponents.

Most infamously his deputy prime minister, Anwar Ibrahim, was sacked and accused of corruption and sodomy – and later jailed on the latter charge – when he called for economic and political reforms.

Mr Najib has been dogged by corruption allegations. He has been accused of pocketing some $700m from the 1Malaysian Development Berhad, a state investment fund he set up.

He has vehemently denied all allegations and been cleared by Malaysian authorities but the fund is still being investigated by several countries.

Those allegations led to Mr Mahathir’s surprise defection in 2016 from BN to join the Pakatan Harapan, saying he was “embarrassed” to be associated “with a party that is seen as supporting corruption”. Then in January, he said he would run for the leadership again.

But despite his historic win, uncertainty hangs over his tenure. Prior to his win, he intended to govern for two years before stepping down. And he promised he would arrange a pardon for Anwar, clearing the way for him to be re-elected and take the top job.

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