Shock Loss for Najib in Malaysian General Election

10 May 2018 Jarryd de Haan, Research Analyst, Indian Ocean Research Programme

Background

Former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamed has officially won the Malaysian general election, with his Pakatan Harapan alliance passing the 112 seat threshold needed to form government. Najib Razak, who was expected to win his third term in government, has only secured 79 out of 222 seats so far, according to the latest count.

Comment

The result of the 9 May general election has come as a shock to political observers in Malaysia with many expecting the ruling Barisan Nasional coalition (BN, or National Front) to secure victory. For six decades, since Malaysia gained independence from Great Britain, the BN has won every general election to date. This year’s election, however, has seen BN lose some of its key electorates including in the state of Johor, where the party was founded.

A major factor behind Najib’s loss is the ongoing corruption scandal involving the 1Malaysia Development Bank. Although Najib has so far avoided any repercussions largely due to his political position, his loss could lead to a renewed push to implicate him. Mahathir, however, has stressed that he is not out to seek revenge against Najib, although the new government may be more co-operative with investigators working on the case.

The election result also comes as good news to former opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim, who was jailed in 2015 on a politically motivated sodomy charge. As Najib’s main political threat at the time, Anwar was also banned from political activity for a further five years on top of his five-year sentence. Mahathir’s victory means that a royal pardon is possible for Anwar, potentially reviving his political career. Although both Mahathir and Anwar have a history of rivalry, there is already talk of a possible pardon.

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