What Happened?

Malaysia’s 14th General Election played like gripping television drama – legendary leader returns to the political scene, working with former foes to right what is wrong, and return order to the land. At least that was what seemed to happen when fourth Prime Minister of Malaysia, Mahathir Mohamed’s party coalition (Pakatan Harapan) won the general election. This made Mahathir Malaysia’s seventh Prime Minister (and at 92-years-old, the world’s oldest elected leader!). Pakatan Harapan (PH) won 115 of parliament’s 222 seats, with the former ruling coalition Barisan Nasional (BN), which Mahathir was once part of, only taking 79 seats.

 

Why is this significant? 

This stunning victory ends the 61-year rule of the BN party, led by corruption scandal-plagued Najib Razak. Most prominently, Najib has been accused of using the state-owned  1MDB Fund (which he set up) to enrich himself. These scandals pulled Mahathir out of retirement to run against the politician he once mentored. While investigating 1MDB and Najib is definitely on Mahathir’s to-do list, the list also includes nine other promises PH has set out to fulfil within its first 100 days in power. Two notable promises are; standardising and increasing minimum wage as well as relooking at awarding mega developmental projects to foreign countries.

Mahathir has gotten approval for a royal pardon for Anwar Ibrahim, a politician Mahathir once put behind bars after Anwar fell out with his government. Additionally, it seems like reconciliation is in the air with Mahathir aiming to hand the ropes over to Anwar within two years (after all, Mahathir is 92 and would probably appreciate some relaxation).

BN’s defeat was shocking not only because it was the only government Malaysia has ever known, but also because the change in government was peaceful and democratic, without the implementation of martial law or the fleeing of Najib that some Malaysians feared. However, the shock is slowly wearing off as the world watches on to see whether the squeaky new government, with the experienced old-hand leader, will be capable of making lasting changes.

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