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Malaysia elections: Mahathir expected to be sworn in as new PM at 5pm today

[PETALING JAYA] Pakatan Harapan leader Mahathir Mohamad is expected to be sworn in as Malaysia's new Prime Minister at 5pm on Thursday, after a delay that prompted parties in his winning coalition to send a letter of support to the King.

At a press conference today, Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, 92, said he had the support of 135 MPs, far surpassing the 112 needed for a simple majority.

Pakatan Harapan​ (PH), he said,​ had won a clear majority and is entitled to form the government​, and hopes this will be done "by 5pm today"​.

​His remarks come fast on the heels of outgoing Prime Minister Najib Razak saying ​an hour earlier that ​he accepted "the will of the people" but stopping short of admitting defeat.

Dr Mahathir told the conference that all four parties in the coalition have "written to the King, asking for a ceremony to swear in the seventh prime minister to take place now".

He said allies such as former Umno vice-president Shafie Apdal's Warisan in Sabah have "all signed the same declaration that they support" him as the new premier.

A public petition calling on the Conference of Rulers to endorse the PH government was also circulated on social media, garnering nearly 65,000 signatures as at noon on Thursday.

The Palace had earlier said that a new premier will not be taking an oath of office on Thursday, despite PH achieving a simple majority after Wednesday's shocking defeat of the Barisan Nasional (BN) in the country's 14th general election, ending the Umno-led pact's six decades in power.

When the room applauded after he said he was  the chosen candidate to be prime minister, he quipped: “You are all clapping. The king is not required to clap, he is required to sign,”, referring to the delay in swearing him in as  premier.

But Dr Mahathir refused to be drawn into his relationship with Sultan Muhammad V, merely saying: "I don't know about (him) not liking me. I have the support of the majority of Members of Parliament."

The former PM also said there has been a delay due to the lack of understanding of the Constitution. ​

A source close to the Palace told The Straits Times that Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) president Wan Azizah Wan Ismail was given an audience with the King early Thursday morning while Dr Mahathir was making a public announcement that PH had won.

"That was why she was not at the press conference. The Palace would prefer not to hold a swearing-in this week but of course Dr Mahathir has expressed his desire to do it as soon as possible, if not today, then tomorrow," said the source.

It is unclear what was discussed between Datuk Seri Wan Azizah and the Agong, but with PH planning to free her husband and iconic opposition figure Anwar Ibrahim from a controversial sodomy conviction to become prime minister, Sultan Muhammad V's pardon will be required.

At the press conference Dr Mahathir said his new government would study "all the things that were done by the previous government", including agreements entered into with China. While he supported Beijing's Belt and Road initiative, he said Malaysia will renegotiate these deals if necessary.

Later when posing for photographs he remarked: "My face is no longer haram (forbidden in Islam). So you don’t have to tear out my face from pictures," referring to new rules during the recent election campaign which barred his face from appearing in publicity materials.

 

THE STRAITS TIMES

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