Malaysia: Historic victory of Mahathir Mohamad’s opposition

Ⓒ AFP – Manan VATSYAYANA – | Former Malaysian Prime Minister and opposition leader Mahathir Mohamad celebrates his victory. May 10, 2018 in Kuala Lumpur.

The opposition alliance led by Mahathir Mohamad, 92, won the parliamentary elections in Malaysia on Wednesday, ending six decades of the ruling coalition without interruption since independence.

The official results provided by the Electoral Commission indicate that the opposition alliance, Pakatan Harapan, with an allied party in the state of Sabah in Borneo, has won 115 seats, more than the simple majority of 112 seats needed for form a government.

Mahathir, who will become the world’s oldest prime minister, told reporters not to seek “revenge, we want to restore the rule of law”.

Mahathir Mohamad led Malaysia with an iron fist for 22 years and left his retirement to embark on the legislative campaign.

As soon as the victory of the opposition appeared clear, the supporters of Mahathir spread out in the streets to express their joy, waving flags in their colors.

Prime Minister Najib Razak, 64, who headed the pro-government Barisan Nasional coalition (National Front, BN), was embroiled in a financial scandal.

The BN has been in charge of Malaysia since independence from Britain in 1957.

Several unofficial counts have reported for several hours the strong growth of the opposition in some areas of the country.

The surprise return to the political scene of the charismatic former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad has upset the political landscape of the country.

Excited by a huge financial scandal that undermined Malaysia’s image abroad, Mahathir allied with parties that were opposed to him from the time he was in power (1981-2003), especially with a imprisoned opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim, former nemesis of the nonagenarian.

Ⓒ AFP – Jewel SAMAD – | Former Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad during his vote on May 9, 2018 in Kuala Lumpur

The opposition coalition has been gaining ground in recent weeks. It has cropped up on the electoral base of the ruling parties, the Muslim Malays who form the majority ethnic group of this multi-ethnic state of Southeast Asia.

The polls closed at 17:00 (09:00 GMT) and the turnout was 69% two hours before the polls closed, said the electoral commission.

In the capital Kuala Lumpur, Lim Kok Tong, a 43-year-old voter, expressed hope for a regime change.

“When governments realize that they can be replaced, they are paying attention to citizens,” said the 40-year-old from the Chinese minority, who traditionally supports the opposition.

– Under pressure –

Ⓒ AFP – Manan VATSYAYANA – | A resident of Kuala Lumpur shows the ink on her finger after her vote on May 9, 2018

Voters are increasingly disillusioned by policies that divide ethnic groups, the rising cost of living and corruption scandals.

The case of embezzlement at the expense of the sovereign fund 1MDB, created by Mr. Najib when he came to power in 2009 to modernize Malaysia, affects the Prime Minister who has always denied any wrongdoing.

Since 2015, Malaysia is shaken by the scandal around this fund currently indebted to the tune of 10 billion euros. It is at the heart of allegations of corruption that are investigated in several countries, including Switzerland, Singapore and the United States.

Opposition supporters and civil society representatives have denounced attempts by the ruling coalition to cheat, claiming that millions of unaddressed voters and even people who have died have appeared on the electoral lists. Following an electoral redistribution in March, favorable to the ruling coalition.

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