Mahathir's Pakatan Harapan pulls off shock victory at Malaysia general election

Mahathir's Pakatan Harapan pulls off shock victory at Malaysia general election

Malaysia's Pakatan Harapan alliance headed by veteran ex-leader Mahathir Mohamad, 92, won a historic election victory on Thursday (May 10), ending the six-decade rule of the Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition.

KUALA LUMPUR: In a stunning result that made political history, the Pakatan Harapan (PH) coalition crossed the minimum threshold of 112 seats needed to form Malaysia's new government, according to figures from the Election Commission early Thursday (May 10) morning. 

The result brings to an end the rule of Barisan Nasional (BN), which has dominated Malaysian politics for decades.

In a press conference just before the official confirmation, PH leader and former Malaysian prime minister Mahathir Mohamad said PH had achieved a victory. 

"We have achieved a very substantial majority," said the 92-year-old.

PH component parties Parti Keadilan Rakyat and Democratic Action Party officially crossed the victory threshold at around 4am after a long night of results which saw power steadily ebbing away from Najib Razak and his United Malays National Organisation (UMNO) party. The final official result showed that PH had won 113 seats, with BN on 79.

Dr Mahathir also said that a palace request has been made for Parti Keadilan Rakyat leader Wan Azizah Wan Ismail to be the designated deputy Prime Minister.

The 92-year-old pledged a government that would include a "young person" and said he would honour his agreement to help secure a royal pardon for jailed leader Anwar Ibrahim. 

However, he added that Anwar would have to win a by-election or be elected senator in order for him to take over as prime minister from Dr Mahathir, as per their agreement.

FIRST SIGN OF AN UPSET

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 – had successfully defended his Pekan seat in Pahang.

But the bloodbath continued for the ruling coalition. 

By 9.45pm, another four deputy ministers fell. 

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

WHAT FUTURE FOR NAJIB RAZAK?

The result throws into doubt Najib Razak's position in his party.

While he had been praised for his fiscal policies, he was also 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 controversy over the fund, however, that sparked Malaysia's longest serving prime minister's return to active politics after 22 years of retirement.

Mahathir had accused his former protege Najib of corruption and abuse of power before quitting UMNO to form his own party, Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia.

At a news conference where he declared victory, Mahathir was asked if he would act against Najib now that he would assume power.

To this, Mahathir said: "We are not seeking revenge. We want to restore the rule of law."

As well as seizing control of the national government, several state legislatures across the country fell into PH hands for the first time, including the highly symbolic bastion of Johor, the birthplace of Najib's party that was the lynchpin of the ruling coalition.

​​​​​​​As it became clear that Mahathir had won, supporters took to the streets waving flags of the Pakatan Harapan alliance.

Malaysia street rally
Pakatan Harapan supporters cheer and wave their party flags on the road leading to Prime Minister's Office of Malaysia in Putrajaya, Malaysia on May 10, 2018. (Photo: AP/Sadiq Asyraf)

After polls closed earlier in the day, journalists had headed to the headquarters of Najib's UMNO, but he failed to turn up to give a speech and the media were told to leave.

Huge numbers of voters earlier turned up at the polls across the country, despite Najib having called the election on a weekday in what critics said was a bid to keep turnout down.

The BN wipeout is a disaster for Najib, who had been under pressure to score an emphatic win after the government lost the popular vote for the first time at the last elections in 2013.

Source: CNA/AFP/hs/ec

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