Ninety-two-year-old Mahathir Mohamad was Thursday sworn in as the world’s oldest elected leader after a stunning election win that swept Malaysia’s establishment from power after more than six decades.
In a huge political upset, former strongman Mahathir‘s opposition alliance broke the grip on power of the Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition, which had governed Malaysia uninterrupted since its birth as an independent country in 1957.
It capped a dramatic political comeback for Mahathir, who previously ruled the country with an iron fist for 22 years and came out of retirement to take on Prime Minister Najib Razak after the leader became embroiled in a massive corruption scandal.
In a ceremony at the national palace steeped in centuries-old Muslim Malay tradition, Mahathir was officially sworn in as prime minister by King Sultan Muhammad V.
Mahathir, dressed in traditional Malay dress, took the oath of office in a elaborately decorated room, with political allies and senior government officials in attendance.
“I, Mahathir Mohamad, after being elected as prime minister, swear to carry out my task with all my ability, and that I will be loyal to Malaysia and preserve and defend the constitution,” he said.
As he was sworn in, fireworks lit up in the night sky across Kuala Lumpur as people celebrated.
Earlier, Mahathir and his wife Siti Hasmah Mohamad Ali were driven into the palace past hundreds of well-wishers waving flags and chanting the national anthem.
Mohamad Azlan Shah, a member of Mahathir‘s party in the crowd, said he was “very proud”.
“Our struggle to change Malaysian politics is not wasted. We believe Mahathir can make a change,” he told AFP.
One of the most remarkable aspects of Mahathir‘s comeback has been his reconciliation with jailed opposition icon Anwar Ibrahim, his former nemesis. Their relationship has loomed large over the Malaysian political landscape for decades.
Anwar was Mahathir‘s heir-apparent until the premier sacked him in 1998 over political differences, and he was subsequently jailed on charges of sodomy and abuse of power.
Anwar was jailed again during Najib’s rule but is due out in June — and Mahathirhas pledged to help him get a royal pardon, allowing him to run for political office again and potentially become prime minister.