Malaysia’s opposition claims win over ruling coalition

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Malaysia‘s opposition leader Mahathir Mohamad said the alliance he leads has won enough parliament seats in Wednesday’s general election to form the next government.

The vote count was continuing, however, and official results so far did not back his claim.

A simple majority of 112 seats is required by a party or alliance to rule, a number 92-year-old Mahathir said his Pakatan Harapan, or Alliance of Hope, believed it had secured to defeat Prime Minister Najib Razak‘s ruling coalition Barisan National (BN).

“It would seem that we have practically achieved that figure. The figure for the BN is very much less that,” he said. “There is no way they can catch up.”

There was no immediate comment from officials with BN, which has governed Malaysia for the past 60 years. 

The election race has been one of the most closely contested in Malaysia’s history, with Mahathir coming out of retirement to take on his former protege Najib, who has been embroiled in a massive corruption scandal.

‘Hanky-panky being done’

Mahathir accused the election commission of holding the official results back.

“It is likely there’s some hanky-panky being done in order to frustrate the wishes of the people,” he said at a hastily convened press conference just before midnight.

The Election Commission said it cannot make any statements regarding the “true results” of the election until all have been validated.

“I hope people can be patient … We will try our best to get information from around the country,” Election Commission Chairman Mohamed Hashim Abdullah told reporters.

Official results from the Election Commission showed BN had so far won 25 of parliament’s 222 seats and Mahathir’s alliance had won 16.

Unofficial tallies of the ongoing vote count by media had different figures.

“There is a massive swing across races. It’s a big shift. This is a repudiation of Najib’s government from all walks of life from the very rural northern states to the more industrial southern coast,” said Bridget Welsh, a Southeast Asia expert at John Cabot University in Rome.

‘Game changer’

Welsh said it was still not clear which side will win a parliamentary majority but the ruling coalition was at risk of losing numerous states to the opposition.

“The person who has made this happen is Mahathir. He has been a significant game changer. He made people feel that a transition of power is possible,” she said.

BN won 34 parliamentary seats while Pakatan Harapan was at 40, according to a count on the website of the pro-government Star newspaper.

State-run Bernama news agency said the opposition gained several new seats in Sarawak state, a traditional BN stronghold.

Some key figures in the ruling coalition had fallen, with the heads of the ethnic Chinese and ethnic Indian parties having lost their seats, according to unofficial counts on Bernama.

SOURCE: Al Jazeera and news agencies

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