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Malaysian Leader Becomes World's Oldest at 92

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Malaysia’s Mahathir Mohamad has returned to power as prime minister, becoming the world’s oldest elected leader.

Mahathir is 92 years old. He previously ruled Malaysia for 22 years.

He led a group of opposition parties that won a parliamentary election on Wednesday. Official results showed the opposition parties – called the Alliance of Hope – received more than the 112 seats required to win a majority in parliament.

Mahathir was sworn in Thursday by Malaysia’s king, Sultan Muhammad V.

The election ended 60 years of rule by the National Front coalition. The party had led Malaysia since it became independent from Britain in 1957.

Former prime minister and National Front leader Najib Razak accepted defeat. In a press conference, he said he recognized “the verdict of the people.” He added that the National Front would “honor the principle of democracy in parliament.”

Defeated Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak walks before giving a press conference in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, Thursday, May 10, 2018. (AP Photo/Aaron Favila)
Defeated Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak walks before giving a press conference in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, Thursday, May 10, 2018. (AP Photo/Aaron Favila)

The National Front’s loss came after Najib became involved in a major corruption scandal. He also faced political problems for supporting new taxes that greatly affected poor Malaysians.

Mahathir told reporters he was ready to carry out major changes for Malaysia. He promised to cancel the unpopular goods and service tax approved in 2015. He said the government could also renegotiate terms of Chinese loans for infrastructure projects.

Mahathir ruled Malaysia from 1981 to 2003. He is credited with building a strong and lasting economy. But he was also known for taking some actions seen as undemocratic. These included silencing and imprisoning political opponents and influencing the country’s courts.

People at a restaurant applaud as they watch TV showing former strongman Mahathir Mohamad sworn in as the new Malaysian Prime Minister in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia on Thursday, May 10, 2018. (AP Photo/Aaron Favila)
People at a restaurant applaud as they watch TV showing former strongman Mahathir Mohamad sworn in as the new Malaysian Prime Minister in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia on Thursday, May 10, 2018. (AP Photo/Aaron Favila)

Mahathir said his government would not seek “revenge” against political opponents. However, he said officials would seek to bring back the rule of law and prosecute those who break it.

Supporters of Malaysia’s new government took to the streets of the capital, Kuala Lumpur, to celebrate the victory. Some stood on roadsides waving the white, blue and red flag of the opposition Alliance of Hope. Others sounded car horns while driving through the streets. One woman who was waving an opposition flag said, “We’ll have a better Malaysia now. Malaysia reborn!”

I’m Bryan Lynn.

Bryan Lynn wrote this story for VOA Learning English, based on reports from the Associated Press, Reuters and Agence France-Presse. Ashley Thompson was the editor.

We want to hear from you. Write to us in the Comments section, and visit our Facebook page.

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Words in This Story

verdict n. decision reached by a court or public opinion

principle n. rule or belief that influence behavior

scandal n. an occurrence in which people are shocked and upset because of behavior that is morally or legally wrong​

infrastructure n. the basic equipment and structures (such as roads and bridges) that are needed for an area to operate

revenge n. the act of doing something to hurt someone because that person did something that hurt you​

horn n. piece of equipment used to make a loud sound as a warning or signal

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