Saturday, 22 September, 2018

Political quake in Malaysia as alliance breaks through with historic win

Treasury Secretary General Datuk Seri Irwan Serigar addresses the crowd during the Langkawi Hebat Concert at Dataran Lang in Langkawi Malaysia's strongman Mahathir Mohamad back in power as he ends Barisan Nasional's 61-year reign
Steve Townsend | 10 May, 2018, 12:32

Mahathir Mohamad holds up a document during a news conference following the general election in Petaling Jaya, Malaysia, May 10, 2018.

Official results from the Election Commission showed that Mahathir's opposition grouping Pakatan Harapan, along with a small ally, had secured 121 parliamentary seats.

MALAYSIA'S outgoing Prime Minister Najib Razak said his ruling Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition had "tried its best" but it was clear they had not done enough to win over the Malaysian people in yesterday's election. There are 222 seats in parliament and a majority is needed to form a government.

"Since there is not one single party that has gained a simple majority, the Agong [king] will make his decision on who will be the prime minister", he said, hinting at possible trouble on the horizon for Mahathir.

In a stunning political upset that took pundits by surprise, Mahathir's opposition alliance ended the long hold on power of the Barisan Nasional coalition, which has been in power in Malaysia since its birth as an independent country in 1957. He denies any wrongdoing.

Supporters of Malaysia's new government have taken to the streets of Kuala Lumpur to celebrate their unexpected election victory.

Mahathir is a polarising figure and many voters are suspicious of him following his iron-fist rule as prime minister from 1981 to 2003.

The activity helped win Mahathir the title "Father of Modern Malaysia", but he was known for his strong-arm rule, although he fell short of some southeast Asian peers in ruthlessness.

But Ibrahim Suffian, co-founder of the Merdeka Center for Opinion Research, said the new government will have to contend with "enormous forces of inertia and resistance from within the government elites".

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Malaysia's outgoing Prime Minister Najib Razak leaves after a news conference following the general election.

Mahathir had said shortly after declaring victory that the King would sign his letter of appointment as prime minister of Malaysia's constitutional monarchy during a ceremony at the royal palace in the capital, Kuala Lumpur on Thursday.

Faced with a leadership challenge after just five years in office, Mahathir detained more than 100 opposition politicians, academics and social activists without trial, under internal security laws.

That was before Mahathir joined the fray, saying he didn't mind "being used by the opposition" to oust Najib. Cars honked their horns as they sped past. Anwar, whose sentence ends on June 8, should be free to participate in politics, he said.

The paper's website also contained some diplomatic words from Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong who said Singapore was looking forward to developing a "constructive relationship" with the next Malaysian leadership.

"We are witnessing history being made in this country", he said.

But, highlighting investor worries, the US-traded iShares MSCI Malaysia ETF plunged 6 per cent overnight to a one-year low.

He said the National Front "will honor the principle of democracy in the parliament".

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