KUALA LUMPUR: Dawn has greeted Malaysia with a new era.
Last night the nation watched in awe as one of the fiercest battles on the political chess board took place. The result was unprecedented in Malaysian history as the Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition led by Najib Razak was defeated.
Under the leadership of 92-year-old Mahathir Mohamad, Pakatan Harapan emerged victorious with the parliamentary majority.
It was the first time the ruling coalition had been beaten in more than 60 years and the timing could not have been worse. In two days, the nationalist United Malays National Organisation (UMNO) will commemorate its 72nd anniversary and what could almost be its 62nd year in power since independence from British rule.
“I accept the verdict of the people," Najib said in his concession speech at BN's headquarters on Thursday (May 10).
Wearing the alliance’s shade of dark blue, the 64-year-old caretaker prime minister appeared calm as he addressed members of the press.
“We did our best. We’re proud of our record,” he added, citing achievements under his nine-year rule that he claimed have improved the lives of Malaysians, created nearly three million jobs and spurred the country’s economy.
It is clear that what we did was less appealing to what was offered by the opposition. Now people are waiting for them to do what they have promised in the manifesto.
Najib thanked the BN supporters who helped the coalition secure 79 parliamentary seats and promised to build more trust in his alliance in the future.
He also said no party had won a simple majority and that Malaysia's head of state, Yang di-Pertuan Agong Sultan Muhammad V, will decide who will be the next prime minister. “BN will accept Agong’s decision,” he said.
Najib described the 14th general election as “a close fight” that marked the principle of democracy but also claimed “slander and sedition” had been used as weapons against BN.
Earlier on Thursday, Pakatan Harapan leader Mahathir announced his coalition's unprecedented victory.
“We’ve achieved a very substantial majority,” he said in a press conference.
The nonagenarian defected from UMNO in 2016 after the 1MDB corruption scandal, in which his former protege Najib was accused of channelling nearly US$700 million from the state development fund into his personal bank accounts.
As voting results were trickling in, it emerged that several BN ministers and deputy ministers had lost their seats to the opposition.
Among them were Liow Tiong Lai, caretaker transport minister who also heads the Malaysian Chinese Association, president of the Malaysian Indian Congress S Subramaniam, president of Parti Gerakan Rakyat Malaysia Mah Siew Keong and Sim Kui Hian, head of the Sarawak United Peoples' Party.
Najib managed to retain his parliamentary seat in Pekan, Pahang, where he had campaigned heavily for 11 days in the run-up to the election, urging voters to make the “right choice”.
“With wisdom, we’ll choose the party that can change our lives,” he had told them.
Malaysians have made their choice.