Malaysia′s former strongman Mahathir Mohamad wins historic election victory | News | DW | 09.05.2018
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Malaysia's former strongman Mahathir Mohamad wins historic election victory

Malaysia's ex-strongman Mahathir Mohamad and his allies scored a surprise victory over incumbent Najib Razak, who faces accusations of corruption. The 92-year-old Mahathir is set to become world's oldest prime minister.

Mahathir Mohamad, Malaysia (picture alliance/AP/D. Chan)

Mahathir Mohamad gestures during a speech in 2017

The opposition alliance led by 92-year-old Mahathir Mohamad won at least 112 seats in Malaysia's 222-seat parliament, dethroning the ruling Barisan Nasional (BN) for the first time in six decades, the electoral officials said on Wednesday.

The tense parliamentary vote turned into a showdown between the current Prime Minister Najib Razak, plagued by the massive 1MBD corruption scandal, and his one-time mentor and former Malaysian strongman Mahathir. According to an election commission official, Najib's BN took only 76 seats.

"We are not seeking revenge, we want to restore the rule of law," Mahathir told reporters.

Ahead of the official results on Wednesday, Mahathir declared victory for his Pakatan Harapan coalition and accused the election commission of "holding back the result."

Read more: Malaysia's new 'fake news' law snares another opposition leader before the vote

Mahathir also accused the electoral officials of refusing to sign the forms at polling stations.

"By now we should know who is winning and who is losing, but there is a deliberate attempt to delay by not signing the forms," he said before the final results were published.

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Malaysians vote in closely contested election

Urgent delivery for expat votes

On Wednesday, Malaysia took to the polls to vote in a general election that pitted the former authoritarian leader Mahathir against Najib, who is accused of corruption and suppression of dissent.

As the polls closed at 5 pm local time, the opposition slammed the electoral commission for not allowing those voters waiting in line to cast their ballots. Also, expat Malaysians had been required to return ballots before a deadline  that was brought forward. 

Read more: Politicians, party or policies: how will Malaysians pick?

About 15 million Malaysians are eligible to vote in the 2018 election. Even five hours after the vote, the election commission did not publish the final turnout figures.

Read more: Frustrated expat Malaysians hasten to get votes home

Promises for young, against corruption

Although there a number of political parties in Malaysia, the prime minister's Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition has essentially ruled the country since independence from the British in 1957.

Najib has promised income tax exemptions for young people and public holidays if his coalition is successful, while 92-year-old Mahathir echoed the themes of a campaign that asserted a vote for the opposition would save Malaysia from a corrupt elite.

In Malaysia, Mahathir is known as the country's "Father of Modernization," as he is credited with transforming Malaysia into an industrial nation. But his tough stance on dissidents and the press have seen critics call him a "dictator."

On Wednesday, Mahathir said a prime minister, widely expected to be him, would be sworn within a day.

 law,dj/se (AFP, AP, dpa, Reuters)

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