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Wed, May
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EX-HEAD OF STATE, 92, BACK IN POWER...To lead Malaysia after shock election win

World News

Ex-Prime Minister for Malaysia, Mahathir Mohamad, 92, has proved everybody wrong to become the next Prime Minister, following his shock election victory over the coalition that has ruled the Southeast Asian nation for six decades since independence from Britain.

Ex-Prime Minister for Malaysia, Mahathir Mohamad, 92, has proved everybody wrong to become the next Prime Minister, following his shock election victory over the coalition that has ruled the Southeast Asian nation for six decades since independence from Britain.

 

Official results showed that Mahathir’s coalition won 113 seats, one more than the number required to rule.

Returning from retirement in 2003, the leader of one of the Asian Tigers took a major but 'unpopular' decision to return to the political turf to give hope in the midst of gloom against the background of corruption charges levelled against the incumbent.

Mahathir had indicated, before the elections, that that whatever the circumstances, he would later hand over to jailed opposition leader, Anwar.

With tons of integrity and competence as his heritage, he strategically joined the opposition and got the appropriate leverage, accessing alliances and campaigning on the message of hope and reconstruction till the elections and official announcement came that he had sailed through - victorious.

Mahathir ruled Malaysia with an iron fist from 1981 to 2003 and now, with a second innings at the age of 92, is set to become the oldest democratically-elected leader in the world.

His alliance of four parties trounced the Barisan Nasional coalition of Prime Minister Najib Razak, who was once Mahathir’s protege but became his most bitter rival.

Malaysian markets were closed and will reopen only on Monday, but overseas investors were nervous about the ouster of Najib, who has been in power for nearly a decade. The ringgit (Malaysian stock market) lost four percent in offshore trading, while an overseas Malaysian equity fund showed a 6 percent drop in share values.

 “This upset ranks up there with Brexit and the Trump election,” said Aninda Mitra, a senior sovereign analyst at BNY Mellon Investment Management. “I believe the ringgit will come under pressure as policy continuity will come under a cloud.”

The Malaysian central bank held its regular policy meeting as scheduled yesterday, and kept the key overnight interest rate unchanged at 3.25 percent. The date for the meeting had been decided before the election was announced.

He repeated a promise to repeal a goods and services tax (GST) introduced by Najib and review foreign investments, including major infrastructure projects that are part of China’s Belt and Road initiative.

Global ratings agency Moody’s said some of his campaign promises, including scrapping GST and a reintroduction of fuel subsidies, could be credit-negative for Malaysia’s sovereign debt rating.

Najib’s BN coalition won 79 seats, a collapse from the 133 it won in the 2013 election, which was itself the coalition’s worst poll performance ever at the time.

Few had expected Mahathir to prevail against a coalition that has long relied on the support of the country’s ethnic-Malay majority.

However, he joined hands with jailed political leader Anwar Ibrahim, his one-time deputy he famously fell out with in 1998, and together their alliance exploited public disenchantment over the cost of living and a multi-billion-dollar scandal that has dogged Najib since 2015.

“This election has proved to us that we moved beyond racial politics,” said Khoo Ying Hooi, a Professor of International and Strategic Studies at the University of Malaya. “It’s really people power through the ballot.”

Mahathir said that one of his first actions would be to seek a royal pardon for Anwar. Before the poll, he had promised to step aside, once Anwar was free and let him become Prime Minister.

Anwar was imprisoned, first by Mahathir on charges of corruption and sodomy. He was released in 2004, but jailed again by Najib in 2015.

Mahathir and Najib were once allies but they clashed over a scandal around 1Malaysia Development Berhad, a state fund from which billions of dollars were allegedly siphoned off.

The 1MDB affair is being investigated by at least six countries, although Najib has denied any wrongdoing and has been cleared by Malaysia’s attorney-general.

Mahathir had vowed to investigate the scandal, if elected, and bring missing funds back to Malaysia. Yesterday, he affirmed that, if Najib had done anything wrong, he would “face the consequences”.