Mahathir returns to parliament after leading opposition coalition to historic victory

Mahathir returns to parliament after leading opposition coalition to historic victory

Mahathir cheers
Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad (C) celebrates with other leaders of his Pakatan Harapan coalition during a press conference on May 10, 2018. (Photo: AFP/Manan Vatsyayana)

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia’s opposition pact, led by former prime minister Mahathir Mohamad, ended the reign of one of the world’s longest ruling coalitions, Barisan Nasional (BN), following a stunning victory in the country’s 14th general elections on Wednesday (May 9).

Pakatan Harapan (PH) won its simple majority to defeat BN, crushing a coalition that has been in power for more than 60 years.

Even before PH’s victory was made official, Mahathir had announced at a press conference that the opposition had achieved a “very substantial majority”.

He added that Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) president Wan Azizah Wan Ismail is the opposition’s “designated deputy prime minister”, but stressed that “at this moment, we don’t have a prime minister just yet”.

The first sign that an upset was on the cards came when unofficial results started trickling in about four hours after the ballot boxes were closed.

At about 9pm, Bernama reported that caretaker Transport Minister Liow Tiong Lai, the president of BN component party Malaysian Chinese Association, had lost his Bentong seat to PKR’s Wong Tack.

Caretaker Health Minister S Subramaniam, of BN component party Malaysian Indian Congress, was the next major casualty, losing his Segamat seat in Johor to PKR’s R Santhara Kumar.

At 9.30pm, there was respite for BN when word came in that incumbent prime minister Najib Razak, president of its biggest component party – the United Malays National Organisation (UMNO) – had successfully defended his Pekan seat in Pahang.

But the bloodbath continued for the ruling coalition. 

By 9.45pm, another four deputy ministers had landed on the scrapheap. 

At about the same time, it emerged that Mahathir will make a return to parliament after winning his Langkawi seat.

The 92-year-old later held a press conference, where he sensationally claimed that PH had won more than the required 112 parliamentary seats required to form the federal government.

As of 10.30pm, unofficial results showed that BN had won 54 parliamentary seats to PH’s 51, according to the Malaysiakini website.

As the night wore on, news emerged that PH had won in Melaka, Negeri Sembilan and Kedah – while retaining control of Selangor and Penang.

At about 2am, the election commission confirmed that Johor, the birthplace of UMNO, had fallen to opposition hands for the first time in history.

During campaigning, Mahathir had called on Malaysians to oust Najib, whom he accused of corruption and abuse of power.

Najib’s administration had been unpopular for rolling out a goods and services tax in addition to being a target of unwanted international attention over allegations funds were misappropriated from a state fund he advised, 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB). He has denied any wrongdoing. 

It was the controversies over the fund, however, that sparked Malaysia's longest serving prime minister's return to active politics and forming his own party, Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (PPBM). 

Mahathir then teamed up with the party of another ally-turned-rival, Anwar Ibrahim, and its opposition coalition, Pakatan Harapan. Anwar was sacked by Mahathir as deputy prime minister in the 1990s before being slapped with sodomy and corruption charges - acts that led to the creation of Parti Keadilan Rakyat. 

These polls, Mahathir and his party contested under the PKR banner after PPBM’s registration was denied by the authorities. Anwar is due out of prison in June, where he is serving out his second prison sentence.

Source: CNA/ra