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Malaysia's Mahathir, 92, is sworn in as Prime Minister after the historic election victory



KUALA LUMPUR (Reuters) – Malaysia's Mahathir Mohamad will be sworn in as the world's oldest elected leader on Thursday after his opposition alliance won an overwhelming electoral victory, ending six decades of reign of a coalition he once led ,

Mahathir Mohamad, former Malaysian prime minister and opposition candidate for Pakatan Harapan (Alliance of Hope), responds at a press conference following parliamentary elections in Petaling Jaya, Malaysia, May 1
0, 2018. REUTERS / Lai Seng Sin

Malaysian celebrated the unexpected victory The 92-year-old Prime Minister Najib Razak, whose popularity had slumped because of rising cost of living and after a billion-dollar seizure scandal at 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB).

Mahathir led the Southeast Asian nation for 22 years and his unexpected return to the Prime Minister ends the previously unbroken reign of Barisan Nasional (BN), the coalition that had governed Malaysia since independence from Britain in 1957.

"We do not seek revenge … what we want is the restoration of the rule of law," Mahathir said of Najib's scandal-ridden reign.

Mahathir appeared at a press conference cheering and cheering, claiming victory overnight, even joking with reporters, and later on Thursday will have an audience with Malaysia's king.

During a ceremony in the royal palace in the capital Kuala Lumpur, the king will sign his letter of appointment as prime minister of the constitutional monarchy of Malaysia.

It is also expected that Najib will speak to the media at 9:45 am local time (0145 GMT). He has not spoken publicly since the explanation of the results, but a member of his cabinet said they would accept the will of the people.

Supporters of Mahathir Mohamad, former Malaysian prime minister and opposition candidate for Pakatan Harapan (Alliance of Hope), celebrating the election victory in front of the hotel where Mahathir Mohamad held a press conference in Petaling Jaya, Malaysia, May 10. 2018. REUTERS / Stringer

The overwhelming election results were to shake the financial markets, which expected a comfortable profit for Najib and the BN.

Malaysia's currency weakened at offshore trading on Thursday, with the ringgit one-month non-deliverable falling forward 1.7 pct. The US-traded iShares MSCI Malaysia ETF fell 6 percent.

The national stock market closes on Thursday and Friday after Mahathir has declared a holiday, but the Ringgit's currency in offshore trading has weakened.

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Mahathir's alliance, which relies on urban voices and the support of ethnic and Chinese minority groups, had hoped that the long-established Malaysian leader would win over voters who are usually loyal to BN. This strategy seemed to have paid off.

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Official results showed that Mahathir's Pakatan Harapan won 113 of Parliament's 222 seats, requiring a simple majority to govern. Najib's BN coalition only managed 79 seats.

Mahathir has promised to reverse a Goods and Services Tax (GST) introduced by Najib during his first 100 days in power and to review foreign investment.

Global rating agency Moody's said some of its election promises, including the GST and a reintroduction of fuel subsidies, could be negative for Malaysia's government bond rating.

Mahathir was once Najib's mentor, but they clashed about differences over the 1MDB graft scandal, which allegedly pushed billions of dollars off to foreign countries.

The scandal is being investigated by at least six countries, even though Malaysia's Attorney General Najib is free from any wrongdoing.

Mahathir vowed to investigate the scandal, if elected, and bring the money back to Malaysia.

Asked on Thursday if Najib would be persecuted, Mahathir said, "If anyone violates the law, including a journalist, they will be brought to justice."

Mahathir must now lead a divided alliance of four parties and make way for imprisoned opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim to become the next prime minister, another former protégé with whom he split sharply before rejoining, around Najib to overthrow.

"I have to lead presidents from four different parties, there will be a headache," Mahathir told reporters.

Reporting by Praveen Menon; Editing by Paul Tait


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