Prime Minister Najib Razak defeated as opposition claims victory in Malaysia

Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak has suffered a stunning election loss to former leader ...

Posted: May 10, 2018 12:42 PM
Updated: May 10, 2018 12:42 PM

Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak has suffered a stunning election loss to former leader Mahathir Mohamad, who at 92 is set to become the world's oldest leader.

Scandal-plagued Najib, 64, was thrashed at the polls by a coalition of parties led by Mahathir, who led the country for 22 years and came out of retirement to challenge Najib in the country's 14th general election.

The defeat is a humiliating fall from grace for Najib, the scion of one of Malaysia's most prominent political families, and his coalition party, Barisan Nasional, which had led the country since its independence 61 years ago.

With all 222 seats in the country's Parliament accounted for, Mahathir's coalition had officially won 121 seats -- enough to form a simple majority and take control of the House. Barisan Nasional, in contrast, only had 79 seats -- a far cry from the 133 it won in the 2013 election.

The bloodbath did not end there -- Najib also saw several members of his Cabinet, ministers and deputy ministers, defeated at the polls, and crashed out of eight of the battles for control of 12 state legislatures contested in the election.

According to a statement by the country's Election Commission, over 76% of the 14.3 million eligible voters in the country turned out to cast their ballots, which opened at 8 a.m. local time and went on until 5 p.m. The turnout was lower than the 85% the country saw in 2013.

While the defeat surely spells the end of Najib's political career, for Mahathir, it represents the culmination of a stunning return to power, a decade-and-a-half after retirement.

Remarkable victory

Mahathir's victory is all the more remarkable considering he is 92 years old, and was fighting the very party he led for over two decades.

Bridget Welsh, a John Cabot University expert on Malaysian politics, said Barisan Nasional could have won the elections had it not been for Najib.

"Najib is a liability. His narcissism cost them the elections," she said, of a Barisan Nasional campaign that featured Najib and his election promises as a centrepiece.

Welsh added Najib's re-election campaign never really took off.

"He used racial politics and money, like he did in 2013, but it did not have the same traction.

"This was a Malaysian tsunami across races, generations and background."

James Chin, the director at the Asia Institute in the University of Tasmania, said Najib had "finally run out of tricks" and said Mahathir had pulled off a masterstroke in snatching the rural vote away from Najib.

He compared the campaign speeches given by the two men on Tuesday night, hours before voting began. "Najib was still playing the bribery game -- you give me your vote, I give you this or that. Mahathir, on the other hand, came across as a statesman and appealed to Malay dignity," he said.

Chin called out two things that helped turn the tide against Najib -- a high voter turnout and the swing in rural support.

"Even if the rural voters didn't understand 1MDB, they understood that some monkey business was happening. And so the Najib brand became toxic," he said.

Comeback for Anwar?

One of the twists of the election came in the form of Mahathir's embrace of Anwar Ibrahim, his former deputy and later political foe, whom he once jailed on sodomy and corruption charges critics said were politically motivated.

Anwar remains imprisoned after being found guilty of sodomy a second time in 2015 -- a charge he has also said is politically motivated. He's expected to be released in June, after serving the bulk of the sentence.

Prior to the election Mahathir pledged he would step aside for Anwar, after securing him a royal pardon. Mahathir has pledged only to serve two years before handing over to his former rival.

Calling it an "unprecedented" alliance in Malaysian politics, Welsh told CNN before the election the two former political enemies had "not only a strategic (alliance) but one based on an idea of statesmanship, of moving the country in a different direction.

"It speaks a lot to the character of both Mahathir and Anwar that they can come together," she said.

"I don't think it's been easy for either of them. For Mahathir he's had to face some of the things he's done, and to apologize. For Anwar, it's to go along with someone who's created a lot of harm to his family."

A contentious election

Najib had been under massive pressure in the run up to the elections, chiefly due to long-running allegations of corruption and misappropriation of money from a state fund, known as the 1Malaysia Development Berhad, but also because of deeply unpopular moves such as the introduction of a goods and services tax (GST), which many Malaysians feel has caused the cost of living to spike sharply.

The elections have been contentious. Najib came under fire from opposition parties and civil society groups for a redrawing of electoral lines that skewed constituencies heavily in favor of his ruling coalition, towards the rural ethnic Malay-Muslim voters that have traditionally formed Barisan Nasional's power base, and away from the urban voters that have largely abandoned his coalition.

Najib also rammed through a bill in Parliament, days before it was dissolved and elections were called, that was ostensibly targeted at curbing the spread of fake news, but which critics said was aimed at stifling free speech and dissenting voices. Mahathir has become one of the first people to be investigated under the law.

There was also deep unhappiness at the fact that the elections were held on a weekday -- only the fifth time in the country's history such a thing has happened, and the first time in the country's history it was held in midweek. Many believed that the choice to have it on a weekday was a deliberate attempt to suppress the number of votes cast.

The country's Election Commission also came under significant fire, with overseas voters furious about the length of time it took them to get their postal voting ballots. Malaysians in London staged a protest earlier this week excoriating the commission for the late arrival of their ballot papers.

Election day controversies

Polling day came with its own share of controversies. Voters in some areas were turned away by election officials for wearing shorts and flip-flops, despite a statement from the Electoral Commission's chairman the day before that there wouldn't be a dress code for voters.

There were also allegations of discrepancies in voting papers, with some voters who turned up to cast their ballots told that they had already voted.

Earlier in the day, opposition politicians claimed their phones and email accounts had been hacked and spammed, saying it was a deliberate attempt to disrupt their communications.

Vote counting by officials went on into the morning, with final results still pending. Najib and Prime Minister-elect Mahathir are expected to address the nation early Thursday. And for the rest of the country, the party has already begun -- May 10 and May 11 have already been declared public holidays in celebration of one of the most remarkable moments in Malaysia's modern history.

Terre Haute
Clear
69° wxIcon
Hi: 93° Lo: 72°
Feels Like: 69°
Robinson
Overcast
66° wxIcon
Hi: 91° Lo: 70°
Feels Like: 66°
Indianapolis
Few Clouds
72° wxIcon
Hi: 93° Lo: 73°
Feels Like: 72°
Rockville
Clear
66° wxIcon
Hi: 92° Lo: 71°
Feels Like: 66°
Casey
Clear
72° wxIcon
Hi: 91° Lo: 71°
Feels Like: 72°
Brazil
Clear
69° wxIcon
Hi: 93° Lo: 72°
Feels Like: 69°
Marshall
Clear
69° wxIcon
Hi: 91° Lo: 71°
Feels Like: 69°
No Change
WTHI Planner
WTHI Temps
WTHI Radar

WTHI Events

 

Illinois Coronavirus Cases

(Widget updates once daily at 7 p.m. CT)

Confirmed Cases: 150554

Reported Deaths: 7309
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Cook934964664
Lake10104427
DuPage9454480
Kane7949280
Will7061322
Winnebago3131101
McHenry2179100
St. Clair2089143
Kankakee133565
Unassigned1170210
Rock Island109430
Madison107770
Kendall101122
Champaign99217
Boone62321
DeKalb59520
Peoria58329
Sangamon47333
Jackson34319
McLean29214
Randolph2917
Stephenson2806
Ogle2794
Clinton24417
Macon24122
LaSalle23717
Whiteside19915
Union19519
Grundy1855
Coles18417
Iroquois1685
Tazewell1588
Knox1490
Warren1470
Monroe14113
Adams1391
Cass1367
Williamson1344
Morgan1323
Jefferson11117
Lee1042
McDonough10415
Henry1031
Vermilion822
Pulaski790
Marion730
Macoupin613
Montgomery591
Perry591
Douglas540
Livingston532
Jo Daviess491
Christian474
Jasper477
Ford411
Woodford392
Jersey371
Franklin360
Bureau312
Menard260
Mercer250
Washington250
Cumberland240
Fayette243
Mason230
Wabash230
Alexander220
Carroll212
Johnson210
Piatt200
Effingham191
Hancock191
Moultrie190
Shelby191
Clark180
Crawford180
Logan180
Bond171
De Witt160
Edgar160
Fulton160
Massac150
Wayne151
Schuyler130
Marshall120
Brown100
Saline100
White90
Greene80
Henderson80
Lawrence80
Richland70
Hamilton60
Stark60
Pike50
Gallatin40
Clay20
Edwards20
Calhoun10
Hardin10
Out of IL10
Pope10
Putnam10
Scott10

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

(Widget updates once daily at 8 p.m. ET)

Confirmed Cases: 49063

Reported Deaths: 2732
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Marion11760689
Lake5276246
Elkhart340255
Allen2835133
St. Joseph200169
Cass16429
Hamilton1608101
Hendricks1425100
Johnson1296118
Porter76738
Tippecanoe7359
Clark66844
Madison66764
Bartholomew59145
Vanderburgh5876
LaPorte58326
Howard58058
Kosciusko5624
Marshall5016
Noble48528
LaGrange4779
Jackson4733
Boone45443
Delaware45252
Hancock45236
Shelby43125
Floyd38444
Morgan32731
Monroe30928
Montgomery29720
Grant29626
Clinton2902
Dubois2886
Henry28216
White26610
Decatur25432
Lawrence24825
Dearborn23823
Vigo2388
Warrick22729
Harrison21622
Greene19032
Miami1862
Jennings17712
Putnam1708
DeKalb1634
Scott1628
Daviess14817
Wayne1436
Orange13623
Perry1359
Steuben1302
Franklin1268
Ripley1247
Jasper1232
Wabash1142
Carroll1102
Fayette1037
Newton9910
Gibson982
Whitley975
Starke943
Randolph804
Huntington782
Jefferson762
Wells751
Fulton721
Jay680
Washington671
Pulaski661
Knox640
Clay604
Rush583
Owen501
Adams491
Benton480
Posey450
Sullivan451
Spencer441
Brown421
Blackford392
Crawford320
Fountain322
Tipton311
Switzerland280
Parke240
Martin220
Ohio180
Vermillion140
Warren141
Union130
Pike110
Unassigned0193