Tuesday 20th November 2018

Malaysia Gets World’s Oldest Elected Leader

- May 10, 2018

Mahathir Mohamad is set to become the world’s oldest elected leader, after a shock victory in Malaysia’s election.

Mr Mahathir, a former prime minister, came out of retirement and switched to the opposition to challenge his former protege, Najib Razak who has been beset by corruption allegations.

Announcing his victory in Kuala Lumpur, Mr Mahathir said his coalition had secured “not just a few votes, not just a few seats, but a very substantial majority”.

He said he hoped a swearing-in ceremony would be held on Thursday and announced – to cheers among his supporters – that there would be a two-day holiday.

“But there will be no holidays for the winners.”

Opposition supporters – most of whom have only ever lived under one government – poured on to the streets overnight in celebration.

“I feel that with this change we probably can see something better in the future,” Suva Selvan, a 48-year-old doctor, told AFP.

“Our hope for the future is a better government, fair, free and united.”

Corruption and economy

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

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 in 1998.

Mr Mahathir was also a mentor to Najib Razak. Mr Najib became prime minister in 2008 but has faced almost constant allegations of corruption.

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. Mr Najib has been accused of stifling Malaysian investigations by removing key officials from their post.

The economy has grown under his leadership, but a rising cost of living – and the introduction of a new goods and services tax – have dented the BN’s gains at previous elections.

‘Electoral crimes’

In 2016, Mr Mahathir dramatically announced he was leaving the Barisan Nasional to join the Pakatan Harapan. He said 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.

Countering fears about his age, he said he intended to govern for two years before stepping down. He promised he arrange a pardon for Anwar Ibrahim, clearing the way for him to be re-elected and take the top job.

Ahead of the election, there were allegations that voting would not be free and fair.And in the days before the poll, election reform group Bersih 2.0 accused the Election Commission (EC) of multiple “electoral crimes”, including irregularities in postal voting and failing to remove dead people from the electoral roll.

The government had insisted the election would be free and fair, with Mr Najib saying that the EC acted “for the good of all”.

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