Malaysia’s Mahathir Mohamad said he expected to be sworn in as prime minister later on Thursday, after the 92-year-old former premier and his opposition coalition won a shock election victory.
Once sworn in, Mahathir would be the world’s oldest head of government.
“This party has won a clear majority,” said Mahathir. “Any delay will mean that we will not have a government, no law, no constitution, and all the institutions to form the government.”
Earlier on Thursday, incumbent Prime Minister Najib Razak conceded defeat, saying, “I accept the verdict of the people,” but he added that since no political party won a simple majority, Malaysia’s king should determine who will be the next prime minister.
Najib said his ruling political coalition, Barisan Nasional, would “respect whatever decision is made by the king,” apparently leaving open the possibility of seeking intervention in the results.
Mahathir acknowledged the delay in the swearing-in, saying it occurred due to a “lack of understanding with the constitution,” but he said he hoped to be sworn in as prime minister by 5 pm (0900 GMT).
“We need to have a government today,” Mahathir told a press conference in Selangor state bordering Kuala Lumpur. “There is a lot of work that needs to be done.”
“You know the kind of mess this country is in. We need to clean up this mess,” he added, speaking in English.
Mahathir, who previously ruled Malaysia as prime minister from 1981 to 2003, said in the early hours of Thursday that he wanted to restore the rule of law in the country and that he would not seek “revenge” against Najib.
Former political allies, Mahathir and Najib had a bitter falling-out two years ago over Najib’s alleged involvement in a 4.5-billion-dollar embezzlement and money-laundering scheme at the state development fund 1MDB.
Najib has rejected the accusations and his attorney general has cleared him of any wrongdoing.
Mahathir’s win created history by ending the ruling coalition’s 60-year grip on power.
Mahathir made the corruption allegations against Najib the focus of his campaign. He said the 64-year-old could not be trusted to lead the country.
At least five governments, including those of the United States, Switzerland, Indonesia, Singapore and Hong Kong, have opened investigations related to 1MDB. US Attorney General Jeff Sessions has called the scandal an example of “kleptocracy at its worst.”
In a surprising twist to the election Mahathir joined forces with his former deputy prime minister Anwar Ibrahim, whom Mahathir had declared live on television in the late 1990s to be guilty of sodomy and homosexual acts. Ibrahim was subsequently convicted and given a custodial sentence.
Anwar’s wife, Wan Azizah, is the opposition coalition’s choice for deputy prime minister. Mahathir has pledged to step down from power in time and to seek a royal pardon for Anwar, which would clear a path for him to become prime minister.
Anwar is currently serving a second jail sentence for sodomy and is due for release in June.