Unlikely election results change the face of Malaysian politics

Malaysia, the South East Asian nation of 39 million people, has a new Prime Minister after six decades spent under the rule of the BN, or National Front Party. The victory which has sent a shockwave through the South East Asian country comes on the back of very public allegations of corruption against the outgoing PM, Najib Razak.

New premier and leader of the PH, or Alliance for Hope party, Mahathir Mohamad will be the oldest serving PM in the world at 92 years old. Having previously ruled the country for 22 years, he only recently stepped out of retirement to take part in this election.

The ousted, Najib, was embroiled in scandals, most notably with regards to wealth fund 1MDB, which the ex-PM set up and oversaw, but who is alleged to have looted to the tune of billions of dollars. His government has also weakened the role of public institutions as well as barring opposition MP’s from re-contesting their parliamentary seats due to previous political offences, including whistleblowing on a government financial scandal and insulting a police officer.

Anwar Ibrahim, the former deputy PM and Finance Minister, and political opponent of Najib, had found himself under investigation for sodomy and was convicted and Imprisoned in 2015. Amnesty International claimed his incarceration was politically motivated. Since the election results, he has been given a royal pardon from Sultan Muhammad V and was released from prison on May 16. He has since released a statement saying that the outgoing PM had asked him on 2 separate occasions for advice on defeat in the election. Ibrahim urged him to accept defeat in public and said that no offer was made to form a joint government by either party.

The ruling party’s regime’s disregard for the rule of law, democracy and constitutional rights was revealed as election day approached. Hoping to avoid defeat and drive down voter turnout, the election was scheduled for midweek, instead of the usual weekend date, in the hope that workers would not be able to travel back to their constituency in time to vote. Ballots for overseas were also sent out late so that there wouldn’t be enough time to return them before votes were counted.

Despite this, on winning election Mahathir has stated that he is not out for revenge on the outgoing PM but rather “to restore the rule of law” to the country.