It was a victory, but it could hardly count as a truly revolutionary one. Grizzled, aged but formidably stirring, Mahathir Mohamad, Malaysia’s former prime minister, is set to form government as the world’s oldest elected leader. His Pakatan Harapan coalition ventured past the 112 seat threshold required to form government, while a weary Barisan Nasional limped through with 79.
Shocks were registered some four hours after voting closed. Transport Minister Liow Tiong Lai, head of the Malaysian Chinese Association, fell to Wong Tack of PKR. Then came the caretaker health minister S. Subramaniam. The ballot box slaughter would continue for the ruling party through the night.
This election result is only surprising if one considers the seemingly immutable nature of BN’s rule, which has lasted six decades and resisted change with studied fanaticism. Prime Minister Najib Rajak had thrown everything bar the kitchen sink at this election, enacting laws to curb the reporting of “fake news” and holding the election at an inconvenient time of the week, but even those actions could not conceal the rot that had set in.
The decay was such as to give Najib international notoriety, featuring the alleged misappropriation of funds from the state investment fund 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB). Mahathir, hardly a squeaky clean figure himself, took this as his cue to return to Malaysian politics, this time under the aegis of a new party, Parti Pribumi…