Malaysia's opposition alliance wins historic election

Dr M attempts to tarnish EC image

It was a stunning triumph that nearly no one had predicted which ended the long hold on power of the Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition, which has ruled Malaysia since its birth as an independent country in 1957.

Vote tally released by the Malaysian Election Commission on Thursday showed that the opposition alliance Pakatan Harapan (PH), led by former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, obtained a simple majority, 113 seats out of the 222 seats of the parliament's lower house, enough for them to form the federal government.

In his triumphant return to front line Malaysian politics, Prime Minister-elect Mahathir pledged to quickly form a new government and reinstate the rule of law, following a momentous night which saw scandal-plagued Najib Razak soundly beaten at the polls by his former mentor.

In the 2013 election, BN lost the majority of votes but clung to power by pulling in 133 seats.

The opposition's victory made history.

Also in the ranks of the Parti Bribumi Bersatu Malaysia (Bersatu) is Muhyiddin Yassin, the country's former deputy premier who was sacked by Najib in 2016 for publicly criticising his boss over the 1MDB corruption scandal.

"During his time, I was a strong opponent of Mahathir", said Joseph Paul, 70, a retired social worker who joined thousands of people in the capital Kuala Lumpur to celebrate Mahathir's win.

Mahathir was a medical doctor before becoming Malaysia's fourth prime minister in 1981 and kicking off a mission of modernisation.

The second factor, said Ibrahim, was the 1MDB issue that clung on to Najib despite numerous explanations.

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.

Mahathir was spurred out of retirement over allegations huge sums were looted from 1MDB, which Najib set up.

Anwar was imprisoned again in 2015, when Najib was prime minister, after another sodomy charge, which he described as a politically motivated attempt to end his career.

When asked about Anwar Ibrahim who is now imprisoned, Dr Mahatir said that he will be released in June. Mahathir has vowed to get him a royal pardon, and later hand over the premiership to him. They quickly surrounded his vehicle as it was driven into the school compound.

He notoriously snubbed the 1993 APEC summit in Australia, which led to anger and strained relations after then-prime minister Paul Keating labeled Mr Mahathir a "recalcitrant". He has long said that the charges are politically motivated.

If you're wondering why Facebook live was the venue for this historic announcement, and not one of the country's many news channels that had devoted their entire day's programming cycle to the events that preceded the final count, we'll remind you that we're not exactly known for our press freedoms over here. We would have to wait.

But during his term as prime minister, Mahathir also faced criticisms after he ordered the arrests and detention of more than 100 people, including opposition leaders and activists, under the internal security act in 1987.

The government recently passed a law redrawing election boundaries, leading to accusations that it had gerrymandered constituencies to ensure they were filled by Malay Muslims, who are traditionally BN supporters. That strategy appeared to have paid off.