Vastavam web: Malaysia’s new Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad officially got down to work yesterday after his shock election win last week broke the six-decade stranglehold of a corruption-riddled regime.The elderly leader, who is starting his second stint as premier after having previously been in office for two decades, arrived at the office of a foundation he runs in the administrative capital Putrajaya.
Escorted by police vehicles, he briefly rolled down the window of his black car to wave at waiting reporters. He was due to hold meetings with senior civil servants.The 92-year-old Mahathir — who was himself accused of ruling with an iron fist in his first stint as premier that ended in 2003 — is now the world’s oldest elected leader.
The stock market opened for the first time since Wednesday’s polls but did not slide as heavily as had been anticipated after Mahathir sought in a weekend speech to calm investors. It initially lost 2.7 per cent but quickly won back ground and was down just 0.2 per cent about an hour after opening.
Local currency the ringgit slipped as much as 0.9 per cent against the US dollar. Stocks linked to the previous regime suffered, with low-cost carrier AirAsia dropping as much as 13 per cent.Still, it has not been all smooth sailing since the historic win, with concerns over the slow formation of the cabinet as different parties in the winning alliance jostle for positions.
Mahathir appointed three ministers at the weekend despite previously having said he would name 10 cabinet members.Jailed politician Anwar Ibrahim, Mahathir’s nemesis-turned-ally, issued a statement Sunday insisting his People’s Justice Party (PKR) still supported the new premier after a senior figure from his party said the cabinet appointments were made without their consultation.James Chin, a Malaysia expert at the University of Tasmania, said some degree of arguing was normal.
“People are just positioning. Everybody is after the plum posts,” he told AFP.Mahathir also faced criticism for saying that a controversial law passed before the election that punishes “fake news” with up to six years in jail would be reviewed rather than revoked.The ragtag opposition alliance, which had been trying for decades to topple BN, finally found success after Mahathir joined forces with them.Mahathir had crushed the opposition parties during his time in power but they found common cause in their determination to topple Najib as allegations mounted over 1MDB, and he became increasingly authoritarian.