Fri, May 11, 2018 - Page 1 News List

Mahathir to take power after shock electoral win

CHANGE:The opposition’s victory triggered a sense of relief that Najib Razak, who has been accused of graft and fanning racial tensions, is finally on his way out

AFP, KUALA LUMPUR

Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad smiles during a news conference in Kuala Lumpur yesterday.

Photo: AP

Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, 92, yesterday met with the king and has been invited to form a government, quelling concerns about succession after a stunning win over the coalition that has ruled for six decades.

Mahathir’s opposition alliance scored a shock victory at the polls to break the grip on power of the Barisan Nasional coalition, which has governed Malaysia uninterrupted since its inception as an independent country in 1957.

It capped a dramatic comeback for Mahathir, who ruled the country with an iron fist for 22 years and came out of retirement to take on former Malaysian prime minister Najib Razak, who became embroiled in a massive corruption scandal.

Mahathir and his wife, Siti Hasmah Mohamad Ali, were driven into the national palace in Kuala Lumpur for an audience with the king, passing hundreds of supporters waving flags and chanting the national anthem.

Mohamad Azlan Shah, a member of Mahathir’s party in the crowd, said he was “very proud.”

“Our struggle to change Malaysian politics is not wasted. We believe Mahathir can make a change,” he told reporters.

One of the most remarkable aspects of Mahathir’s comeback has been his reconciliation with jailed opposition icon Anwar Ibrahim, his former nemesis, a relationship that has loomed large over the Malaysian political landscape for decades.

Anwar was Mahathir’s heir apparent until he was dismissed in 1998 over political differences, and he was subsequently jailed on charges of sodomy and abuse of power that were widely seen as trumped-up.

Anwar was jailed again during Najib’s rule, but he is due out next month — and Mahathir has promised to secure him a royal pardon, allowing him to run for office again and potentially become prime minister.

As it became clear that Barisan Nasional was facing a historic wipeout, Najib kept a low profile before surfacing yesterday morning to tell a news conference that he accepted the people’s will, although he stopped short of conceding defeat.

His comments were slammed by one analyst as “unstatesmanlike.”

The opposition’s shock victory triggered euphoria and a sense of relief that a leader who was accused of massive graft and fanning racial tensions in the multi-ethnic country was finally on his way out.

“We have been waiting for so long for this to happen,” said 35-year-old Larson Michael, a voter from just outside Kuala Lumpur. “[Mahathir] has come back to help us regain the country. Now we want to see if he will fulfill his promises.”

The initial excitement at the opposition victory will likely give way to some apprehension.

Mahathir was also accused of being an authoritarian leader and political opponents were thrown in jail during his time in office.

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