Politicians, lawyers and lecturer in new Malaysian Cabinet

May 18, 2018
FILE - In this May 16, 2018, file photo, Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad speaks during a press conference in Putrajaya, Malaysia. Mahathir has unveiled a mix of senior politicians, lawyers and a lecturer in his new Cabinet after a stunning electoral victory last week. (AP Photo/Vincent Thian, File)

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AP) — Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad unveiled a new Cabinet on Friday with a mix of senior politicians, lawyers and a lecturer after a stunning electoral victory last week.

Mahathir, 92, led a four-party alliance to oust the National Front coalition that has been in power since independence from Britain in 1957 on the back of pledges to fight corruption and institute reforms. It was a remarkable comeback for Mahathir, who was premier for 22 years until 2003, and is now the world’s oldest elected leader.

The Cabinet announcement was made after Mahathir met the king and obtained approval for an initial team of 13 ministries. Mahathir had earlier announced he would hold the education portfolio but backtracked to honor his alliance’s pledge that the prime minister would not hold another ministerial post.

His office said the Cabinet, comprising three female ministers, two lawyers, a former deputy prime minister, a lecturer and senior opposition politicians, will be sworn in on Monday.

The Cabinet includes the first ethnic minority Chinese appointed as finance minister in 44 years. The chief minister of Malaysia’s wealthiest state, Selangor, was named as economics minister, while a lecturer at an Islamic university known for his research on terrorism is education minister.

Mahathir has said he would expand the Cabinet later but hopes to keep it to no more than 25 ministries

The Cabinet formation has been slowed by horse-trading for posts among the four parties in Mahathir’s alliance. His deputy is Wan Azizah Wan Ismail, the wife of reformist leader Anwar Ibrahim and the country’s first female deputy premier. The government is seen as transitional since Mahathir has agreed to hand over power to Anwar in one or two years.

Anwar, a former deputy premier, was convicted on sodomy and corruption charges after a power struggle in 1998 with Mahathir. He was freed in 2004 and convicted again in 2015 of sodomy, which he said was concocted to destroy his political career. Anwar worked from his prison cell to forge a new opposition alliance by ending his two-decade feud with Mahathir, a gamble that paid off when the alliance won the May 9 polls.

Anwar, 70, was freed Wednesday after obtaining a royal pardon on grounds that his conviction was a travesty of justice. He told The Associated Press he plans to run in a by-election to return to parliament later this year but will not hold any Cabinet post and is in no rush to take over the top job.

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