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Malaysia elections: Mahathir won't be sworn in as PM on Thursday, says palace spokesman

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Mahathir Mohamad will not be sworn in as Malaysia's next prime minister on Thursday, a palace spokesman told Reuters, without giving a reason.

[KUALA LUMPUR] Mahathir Mohamad, who pulled off a stunning general election win, will not be sworn in as the new prime minister of Malaysia on Thursday, a spokesman for the King’s palace said, but gave no reason for the change in schedule. 

Mr Mahathir had said shortly after declaring victory that the King would sign his letter of appointment as prime minister of Malaysia’s constitutional monarchy during a ceremony at the royal palace in the capital, Kuala Lumpur on Thursday.  But palace authorities said there would be no such event and a spokesman for Mr Mahathir, the 92-yer-old veteran former prime minister, said he had not heard from the palace and had no plan to go there.  

Mr Mahathir’s opposition alliance won the simple majority it required to form a new government in Wednesday’s polls, a stunning result that will end six decades of rule by a coalition he once led.  

Malaysians celebrated Mr Mahathir’s unexpected victory over Prime Minister Najib Razak, whose popularity had plunged over rising living costs and in the wake of a multi-billion-dollar graft scandal at 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB).  

Mr Mahathir led the Southeast Asian nation for 22 years and his unexpected return to the prime ministership ends the previously unbroken rule of Barisan Nasional (BN), the coalition that had governed Malaysia since independence from Britain in 1957.  “We are not seeking revenge ... what we want is to restore the rule of law,” Mr Mahathir said of Mr Najib’s scandal-plagued rule.  

Mr Mahathir appeared jubilant and sprightly at a news conference claiming victory overnight.  

Mr Najib began an address to media in the late morning. A member of his cabinet said they would accept the will of the people.  The stunning election outcome was expected to ruffle financial markets that were expecting a comfortable win for Najib and the BN.  

Malaysia’s currency weakened in offshore trading on Thursday, with the ringgit one-month non-deliverable forward falling 1.7 per cent. The US-traded iShares MSCI Malaysia ETF fell 6 per cent.  
The national stock market was closed on Thursday and Friday after Mahathir declared a public holiday, but the ringgit currency weakened in offshore trading.  

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Mr Mahathir’s alliance, which counts on urban votes and support from the minority ethnic Chinese and Indian communities, had hoped the veteran Malay leader would win over voters usually loyal to BN. That strategy appeared to have paid off. 

Official results showed that Mahathir’s Pakatan Harapan (Alliance of Hope) won 113 of parliament’s 222 seats, clinching the simple majority required to rule. Najib’s BN coalition only managed 79 seats.  

Mr Mahathir has promised to reverse a goods and services tax (GST) introduced by Mr Najib during his first 100 days in power and review foreign investments.  

Global ratings agency Moody’s said some of his campaign promises, including the GST and a reintroduction of fuel subsidies, could be credit negative for Malaysia’s sovereign debt rating.  

Mr Mahathir was once Mr Najib’s mentor but they clashed after differences over the 1MDB graft scandal, in which billions of dollars were allegedly siphoned off to foreign countries.

The scandal is being investigated by at least six countries, although Malaysia’s attorney general cleared Mr Najib of any wrongdoing.  

Mr Mahathir vowed to investigate the scandal if elected and to bring the funds back to Malaysia.  Asked on Thursday if Mr Najib would be prosecuted, Mr Mahathir said: “If anybody breaks the law, and that includes a journalist, they will be brought before the court.” 

Mr Mahathir must now manage a fractious alliance of four parties and make way for jailed opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim to become the next prime minister, another former protege with whom he split acrimoniously before reuniting to topple Mr Najib.  “I have to manage presidents of four different parties. It’s going to be a headache,” Mr Mahathir told reporters.

REUTERS

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