Doubts at Malaysian general election as Mahathir Mohamad is sworn in as prime minister

Doubts at Malaysian general election as Mahathir Mohamad is sworn in as prime minister

The Malaysian politician Mahathir Mohamad is soon to become the world's oldest leader at the age of 92. He emerged victorious in the 2018 election, ending 62 years of rule by the incumbent coalition. The Barisan Nasional Party, led by Najib Razak, was unseated by Pakatan Harapan after securing 121 parliamentary seats.

However, Mahathir's confirmation has faced setbacks after reports detailed that King Yang di-Pertuan Agong refused to swear him in. Furthermore, some political commentators believe that Mahathir was technically constitutionally ineligible to be prime minister since the opposition is a coalition and not one party. The most likely other candidate for the position of prime minister is Wan Azizah Wan Ismail, the wife of former prime minister Anwar Ibrahim.

In an emotional concession speech at the Barisan Nasional headquarters, Najib appeared to wish his opponent no ill will, stating: "I accept the verdict of the people. We did our best. We’re proud of our record... It is clear that what we did was less appealing to what was offered by the opposition. Now people are waiting for them to do what they have promised in the manifesto."

However, he also conceded that the final decision now rested with the Malaysian monarchy, stating: "Because no party got a simple majority, the King will decide whom to appoint as Prime Minister... Barisan Nasional will accept the King's decision, and I urge all Malaysians to accept the decision calmly and place their faith in the King to make a wise decision."

Najib is also facing the possibility of a criminal investigation over his alleged involvement in the 1Malaysia Development Berhad scandal, after $3.2 billion was embezzled from government funds. Approximately $680 million of this sum made its way to Najib’s personal bank account.

Meanwhile, Mahathir has urged his supporters not to lose hope, and stated at a press conference that: "Today I want to emphasise that our coalition, Pakatan Harapan, has already won a clear majority and therefore we are invited to form a government. We stand by the rule of law and whatever we do must be governed by the constitution ... the prime minister should have the support of the majority of the candidates of parliament, it does not say it should have the support of any one party ... We would like to form the government here, today, because currently there is no government of Malaysia. We hope that at 5 o’clock today we will have formed a government."

Only time will tell whether this period of uncertainty will last, but it's clear that the landscape of Malaysian politics has shifted considerably.