Nonagenarian Mahathir Mohamad made history on Thursday as he was sworn in as the world’s oldest elected leader after a stunning election win that swept Malaysia’s establishment from power after more than six decades.
Dressed in a traditional Muslim Malay outfit, the 92-year-old leader was sworn in by the king at the national palace in Kuala Lumpur.
Earlier, Mahathir addressed the press and sounded significant changes for Malaysia, which he described as being left in a “mess” by defeated Prime Minister Najib Razak and the National Front coalition.
“We need to have this government today without delay,” Mahathir said, adding, “There is a lot of work to be done. You know the mess the country is in and we need to attend to this mess as soon as possible and that means today. So we expect that today, well, I’ll be sworn in as prime minister.”
The election result jolted the Muslim-majority country, ending the National Front’s unbroken 60-year rule and sweeping aside Najib, whose reputation was marred by a monumental corruption scandal, a crackdown on dissent and the imposition of an unpopular sales tax that hurt many of his coalition’s poor rural supporters.
It is also a surprising exception to backsliding on democratic values in Southeast Asia, a region of over 600 million people where governments of countries, including Thailand, Cambodia and the Philippines have swung toward harsh authoritarian rule.