Mahathir Mohamad has been sworn in as Malaysia's new prime minister, capping a remarkable political comeback by the 92-year-old. The Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition was dethroned on Wednesday after six decades in power.
Mahathir Mohamad was sworn in as Malaysia's prime minster for the second time in his long political career on Thursday, although this time as the head of an opposition coalition that claimed its first election victory in six decades.
The swearing-in ceremony at the Royal Palace in Kuala Lumpur caps off one of the most dramatic elections in Malaysian history. Coming out of retirement, the former prime minister turned his back on the Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition, which had governed Malaysia since it gained independence from Britain in 1957, to lead an alliance of opposition parties to victory.
Mahathir's opposition alliance, known as Pact of Hope, won 121 seats to claim a simple parliamentary majority. BN won just 79 seats — down from 133 previously.
Outgoing Prime Minister Najib Razak said he "accepted the verdict of the people," but did not initially concede defeat as no party won a clear majority. "BN is committed to the principles of democracy," he added.
Historic transfer of power
At 92 years of age, Mahathir becomes the world's oldest elected leader. However, he has pledged to grant jailed opposition icon Anwar Ibrahim a royal pardon and eventually pass the premiership on to him.
"I was very sleepy this morning," he joked when asked about a delay in of the swearing-in ceremony on Thursday, following a tense vote and a prolonged vote count on the previous day.
"I got up late and lots of people got up late," he added. "The moment I got up, as I was having breakfast, I called all the officers concerned and told them all things we have to do."
"There is an urgency here, we need to form the government now, today," Mahathir said.
Mahathir ruled Malaysia between 1981 and 2003, overseeing the country's transformation into an industrialized nation and guiding it through the Asian financial crisis of two decades ago. His tough stance on political opponents and dissidents prompted several critics to label him a dictator.
Despite being a polarizing figure, police said that Wednesday's election largely remained peaceful except for a handful of minor scuffles between supporters of opposing camps. Malaysian national police chief Mohamad Fuzi said authorities would ensure a smooth transition of power following the swearing-in ceremony.