Commentary Politics

Malaysian opposition becomes the government as Pakatan ousts BN in GE14

Mahathir (centre), the man who would become Malaysia's prime minister a second time.

Mahathir (centre), the man who would become Malaysia's prime minister a second time.

Written by Aziz Hassan

KUALA LUMPUR — May 10, 2018: There’s only one word to describe it and that’s farcical, with Malaysians kept wondering on their feet as to the outcome of the country’s 14th general elections since Malaya gained independence in 1957 and when confirmation came, it wasn’t from the Election Commission, the agency tasked with the role of officially informing the people which party has won the polls.

Instead word on the outcome came from opposition leader Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad from a press conference about 2.45 this morning. That though was semi-official but because Mahathir the former prime minister who will occupy that chair again from later today after first leading the country for 22 years until late 2003 had invoked the palace in his statement, who would doubt him.

According to Mahathir, the palace was in contact with him to say that it knew of the results achieved by his Pakatan Harapan pact and that he would be sworn in as Malaysia’s seventh PM later today. Mahathir’s statement was based on Pakatan having achieved a simple majority.

Ironically the EC also called for a press conference earlier, at which it only confirmed that the government in five states could be formed. One explanation for the delayed results was due to logistical matters, like the distance from the constituencies to the counting centres.

Honestly, hardly anyone swallowed this and one guest on a television panel questioned how the results from such a large state like Sarawak with 31 parliamentary constituencies and its own logistical limitations could have come in much, much earlier than those from smaller states in the peninsular.

For the two smallest states like Perlis and Malacca, for example, surely the results could have been officially announced by 8.30pm because of the small number of voters.

It was only close to 4am that the EC officially announced Pakatan had won 113 seats for a simple majority against Barisan Nasional’s 79.

With the results that we now know, the reign of the then Alliance and now the Barisan Nasional for 61 years since independence is over but the warning signs were already there from GE12 in 2008.

As in the two previous elections, three of the main component parties in BN — MCA, MIC and Gerakan — lost a lot of ground, with all three party leaders defeated.

If 2013 saw a Chinese tsunami causing damage to BN in Johor especially, this time the Malay tsunami the BN said was never going to happen inflicted more mayhem, moving further inland in Johor and also causing havoc in Kedah, Malacca, Negri Sembilan and to a lesser extent Perak and Sabah.

Datuk Seri Najib Razak, BN chief and caretaker prime minister until the last midnight, is due to hold a press conference this morning but with the kind of results the coalition has in the bag, his position as Umno president looks precarious and a challenge at the next party election shouldn’t surprise many.

What Umno and BN need is an honest to goodness feedback on issues that plague a party and country. No matter how you spin, the real story can never be completely swept under the carpet, certainly not in the days of the social media.

Without a doubt BN was often pushed into a corner in the last few years, with issues linked to 1MDB resonating with the urban middle-class no matter how one tried to brush it off, the liabilities too damaging to be countered effectively.

But while it savours this victory for a few days at least before it gets down to the business of governance, someone should also remind Pakatan Harapan that its every move too will be scrutinised after the honeymoon is over.

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About the author

Aziz Hassan

A journalist since July 1976 with both the English and Malaya press and was with two newspaper groups before The Mole. Does corporate report-writing and translation in his free time. Currently also a contributing weekly rugby columnist for the New Straits Times.