Malaysia's scandal-hit PM looks set to lose popular vote

Malaysia's scandal-hit PM looks set to lose popular vote to former mentor
2 min read
09 May, 2018
Unofficial tallies show Malaysia's opposition making early gains in what appears to be a loss of popular vote for the current scandal-hit prime minister.
Mohamed has capitalised on rural anger over soaring living costs and corruption [Getty]
Unofficial tallies show Malaysia's opposition alliance - led by veteran ex-leader Mahathir Mohamad - making early gains in Wednesday elections against the long-ruling coalition.

Opposition groups have already started celebrating ahead of the official results, which are expected later this evening.

According to a count on the pro-government Star paper website, the ruling Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition had one 34 parliamentary seats, while alliance Pact of Hope was on 40.

State-run Bernama news agency said the opposition also managed to gain new seats in a traditional BN stronghold, Sarawak.

But official results on the Election Commission website so-far show BN with 20 seats and two parties in the opposition alliance - People's Justice Party and the Democratic Action Party - on six seats each.

There are 222 seats in parliament, and 112 are needed for victory at the election with a simple majority. BN currently has 133.

Malaysia's opposition is banking on a surge of support from disillusioned members of the country's Muslim majority, believing it will carry them to an unlikely victory against Prime Minister Najib Razak's ruling coalition.

The election race - which had looked like an easy win for the government - has triggered opposition hopes as the 92-year old opposition leader Mahathir Mohamad, goes head-to-head with his former protégé Razak.

Many remember the stately Mahathir fondly as a champion of the country's Muslim-majority Malay population and a father of modern-day Malaysia. He is admired as the architect of policies that transformed a sleepy Southeast Asian backwater into a relatively affluent country.

Claims of a multibillion-dollar corruption scandal have followed the Prime Minister Najib Razak. Activists fear new laws could be used as a fig leaf for damning news reports and critical opinions on government misconduct.

Razak - who denies any wrongdoing - has fired critics in his government and muzzled the media since the corruption scandal erupted three years ago.

Ahead of the general elections, electoral boundaries were re-drawn to favour the ruling coalition, a move described by Malaysia's Human Rights Commission as an "epic breach of democracy".

In a strongly-worded statement issued on the eve of the country's general elections, the commission's Chairman Razali Ismail said that a level playing field has been undermined by money and gifts being distributed by Razak's ruling coalition.

Razak's ruling BN coalition was seen as likely to retain power mainly due to an electoral system critics say has been heavily manipulated to favour the government.

Analysts predict it will lose the popular vote for the second consecutive election.