KUALA LUMPUR: Dr Mahathir Mohamad completed a remarkable comeback to the national stage this evening, being sworn in as Malaysia’s seventh prime minister at Istana Negara. The ceremony ended a day of political uncertainty and tension after Barisan Nasional (BN) was swept from power in yesterday’s general election.
The Pakatan Harapan (PH) chairman took his oath of office before the Yang di-Pertuan Agong, Sultan Muhammad V.
The leaders of the four PH component parties – PKR president Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail, DAP secretary-general Lim Guan Eng, PPBM president Muhyiddin Yassin and Amanah president Mohamad Sabu – as well as PH MPs and senior government officials, including Chief Secretary to the Government Ali Hamsa, were in attendance.
Mahathir had claimed victory for the new ruling coalition in the 14th general election (GE14) shortly before midnight and had been expected to be sworn-in this morning.
Outgoing prime minister Najib Razak, whose BN was voted out of power in Parliament and six states, conceded defeat at 11am today but no invitation was received for Mahathir to present himself at the palace.
Official results of the general election, declared at 4.45am this morning, showed that PH and its Borneo allies commanded 125 seats, giving it a comfortable majority in the 222-member Dewan Rakyat. BN won 79 (a loss of 53 seats) and PAS 18 (a gain of five seats).
After failing to receive an invitation to an audience with the King in the morning, Mahathir announced that the leaders of the four PH parties – PKR, DAP, PPBM and Amanah – had signed a letter to the King pledging the support of all their MPs in nominating Mahathir to form the next federal government.
The new Langkawi MP had called for the rule of law to be upheld, stating that he fulfilled the constitutional requirement of commanding a majority of support of the Dewan Rakyat.
Mahathir had asked that he be sworn-in by 5pm, stating that the country now lacked a government and a prime minister should be appointed urgently to carry out PH’s election pledges, which included the abolition of the goods and services tax and a review of major projects backed by loans from China.
At about 4pm, Mahathir drove to Istana Negara in a Proton Perdana bearing the number Proton 2020 and was in discussions in the palace until late in the evening.
A spate of text messages of speculation and rumours over the cause of the delay were spread by mobile phone, while scores of journalists waited outside the palace complex in Jalan Duta since afternoon.
FMT later learnt that the swearing-in ceremony had been scheduled for 9.30pm.
Earlier in the day, palace officials were reported to have been in discussions with the Election Commission and the attorney-general about the constitutional requirements for the appointment.
The constitution grants the Yang di-Pertuan Agong discretion in choosing anyone of the Dewan Rakyat members who in the opinion of the King commanded the confidence of the house.
It is believed that an invitation had been extended to Wan Azizah, president of PKR, to consider being appointed, as all PH candidates, including Mahathir, had contested the elections on a PKR ticket, using the PKR flag as their common symbol.
However, Mahathir pointed out that the coalition had named him as their nominee, and that the constitution did not state that the position should be offered to the leader of a party.
A day after Pakatan Harapan’s stunning general election victory, Dr Mahathir Mohamad returns to power at the age of 92.