Malaysians awoke on Thursday to a new political era, as veteran opposition leader Mahathir Mohamad sealed victory in a historic general election that ends the ruling coalition’s six-decade grip on power.
The election race was one of the most closely contested in Malaysia’s history, with 92-year-old Mahathir coming out of retirement to take on his former protege, Prime Minister Najib Razak, who has been embroiled in a massive corruption scandal.
Mahahtir said he will be sworn in as Malaysia’s leader later on Thursday, becoming the oldest prime minister in the world.
The south-east Asian nation’s election commission confirmed that the Mahathir-led Pakatan Harapan (Alliance of Hope) coalition opposition bloc had won 113 seats, one more than the 112 seats required to form a new government. Prime Minister Najib Razak’s Barisan Nasional (National Front) claimed 79, with the Malaysian Islamic party (PAS) and others taking the remainder.
In the early hours of Thursday, Mr Mahathir held a press conference declaring victory and announcing national holidays on Thursday and Friday, in a win that marked a sensational political comeback for the 92-year-old former PM who held power for 22 years from 1981 to 2003. He was expected to be sworn in on Thursday, but a palace spokesman said the ceremony had been delayed, according to Reuters.
Asked if he would take action against Najib over the financial scandal, Mahathir said he will not seek “revenge”.
“We are seeking to restore the rule of law,” Mahathir told reporters early Thursday.
There was no immediate comment from officials with BN.
Source: Financial Times, Reuters, Al Jazeera