Malaysia's Najib: Scandal-plagued PM toppled by his mentor

Malaysia's Najib: Scandal-plagued PM toppled by his mentor
PHOTO: Reuters

KUALA LUMPUR - Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak's administration was rocked by claims he was involved in a campaign to plunder state investment fund 1MDB, slammed by the US as "kleptocracy at its worst".

But for voters saddled with rising living costs, there may have been economic reasons closer to home for the shock electoral result that wrenched 64-year-old from power.

The polls Wednesday delivered a decisive defeat to Najib, in a major political upheaval likely to reverberate deeply across the country's political landscape.

Malaysia's outgoing leader has not been seen since official results showed he had been defeated by the country's opposition, led by his 92-year-old former mentor Mahathir Mohamad.

And as the scale of the drubbing started to become clear reporters who had flocked to the headquarters of Najib's United Malays National Organisation (UMNO) were told to leave.

Mahathir scores shocking win in Malaysian Election

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    Pakatan Harapan chairman Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad has officially been sworn in as Malaysia's seventh Prime Minister.

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    Dr Mahathir took his oath of office as Prime Minister before Yang di-Pertuan Agong Sultan Muhammad V at the Istana Negara at 9.57pm Thursday (May 10).

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    The 92-year-old was accompanied by his wife Tun Dr Siti Hasmah, DAP stalwart Lim Kit Siang, PKR president Datuk Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail, vice-president Nurul Izzah Anwar, Parti Amanah Negara president Mohamad Sabu and Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia president Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin.

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    This means that Dr Mahathir will be the world's oldest prime minister and the first Malaysian to be premier twice.

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    At a press conference earlier, Dr Mahathir said he would appoint Dr Wan Azizah as deputy prime minister once he is sworn in.

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    Dr Mahathir received the mandate to form the government through Pakatan, which managed to wrest 113 out of 222 federal seats in GE14.

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    Former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad speaks to reporters during a press conference at the Sheraton Petaling Jaya Hotel on 10 May 2018.

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    Mahathir Mohamad holds up a document with the signatures of alliance party leaders naming him as the prime minister during a news conference following the general election in Petaling Jaya, Malaysia, May 10, 2018.

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    Najib leaves after a news conference on May 10.

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    Malaysia's outgoing Prime Minister Najib Razak (R) speaks during a press conference in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, 10 May 2018.

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    Mahathir's stunning defeat of the coalition that has ruled the Southeast Asian country since independence from Britain six decades ago means that, at the age of 92, he will become the oldest elected leader in the world.

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    Official results showed that Mahathir's Pakatan Harapan (Alliance of Hope) had won 113 of parliament's 222 seats, clinching the simple majority required to rule.

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    Najib's ruling coalition, Barisan Nasional (BN), had 79. Pic: Barisan Nasional party members watch election results updates at the Barisan Nasional coalition headquarters in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, on Wednesday, May 9, 2018.

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    Supporters of Mahathir Mohamad, former Malaysian prime minister and opposition candidate for Pakatan Harapan (Alliance of Hope), celebrate outside the hotel, where Mahathir Mohamad held news conference, in Petaling Jaya, Malaysia, May 10, 2018.

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    Mahathir told a news conference he expected to be sworn in as prime minister later on Thursday.

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

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    Mahathir has promised to seek a royal pardon for Anwar if they won the election and, once Anwar is free, to step aside and let him become prime minister.

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    Ethnic-Malay Muslims have long tended to support BN for affirmative-action policies that give them government contracts, cheap housing and guaranteed university admissions.

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    Mahathir's alliance, which counts on urban votes and support from the minority ethnic Chinese and Indian communities, had hoped the veteran Malay leader would win over voters usually loyal to BN. That strategy appeared to have paid off.

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    Mahathir's opposition wrested control of key states Johor and Kedah, and reduced BN's grip in strongholds like Sarawak.

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    Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad arrives at SK Titi Gajah in Alor Setar at 10.55am to cast his vote.

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    The Election Commission said voter turnout was at 55 percent out of the total 14,449,200 voters in GE14 as of 1pm on May 9.

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    Dr Mahathir Mohamad is keeping a positive outlook on voter turnout throughout the day.

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    By 5pm May 9, some 70 per cent of voters had cast their ballots for what has been dubbed "the mother of all elections". The latest polls show a neck-and-neck race to the finish for ruling coalition Barisan Nasional (BN) and opposition pact Pakatan Harapan (PH).

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    Voters still queuing up within the compounds of polling stations nationwide for GE14 were not allowed to vote after the 5pm cut-off time but any voter affected can file a petition to demand a re-election.

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    Malaysian Prime Minister Najib votes at a polling station during the 14th general elections in Pekan on May 9, 2018.

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    Malaysians went to the polls on May 9 in one of the country's closest ever elections which pits scandal-hit Prime Minister Najib Razak against his one-time mentor, a 92-year-old former authoritarian leader.

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    The Barisan Nasional chairman arrived at his polling station Sekolah Sains Sultan Ahmad Shah at 9.20 am together with his wife Datin Seri Rosmah Mansor. Najib was all smiles when he was greeted by other voters who were present at the station.

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    9.29am: PKR president Datuk Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail voted in SK Seri Penanti in Permatang Pauh. After casting her vote, she immediately left and returned to Selangor where she is contesting for Pandan parliamentary seat there.

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    The Barisan chief is in a four-cornered fight for the Pekan seat. (Pic) Barisan Nasional deputy chairman Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi and his wife Datin Seri Hamidah Khamis successfully cast their ballots at the Madrasah Manbail Ulum voting centre at Sungai Nipah Darat.

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    Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai and Datin Seri Lee Sun Loo cast their vote at SK Sulaiman in Bentong.

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    PAS president Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang, who is defending his Marang parliamentary seat, arrives at SK Rusila in Marang to cast his ballot.

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    EC staff making final preparations at a polling station at Stadium Titiwangsa in Kuala Lumpur.

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    An instruction notice for voters is seen at a voting center on the eve of the 14th general election in Pekan, Pahang on May 8, 2018.

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    Malaysia's Prime Minister Najib Razak (C) offers special prayers a day before the 14th general election at a mosque in Pekan, Pahang, Malaysia, May 8, 2018.

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    Women vote during the general election in Alor Setar, Malaysia, May 9, 2018.

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    People boarding buses back to Malaysia. at Singapore's Golden Mile complex on May 8.

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    Supporters listen to a speech by former Malaysian PM Mahathir Mohamad

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    This picture taken on May 8, 2018 shows Malaysians gathering at an election rally in Petaling Jaya to watch a telecast of 92-year-old former authoritarian leader Mahathir Mohamad.

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    Voters queue up in the early morning to cast their ballots at a polling station during the 14th general election in Alor Setar on May 9, 2018.

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Najib, the son of a Malaysian founding father, presented himself as a reformer when he came to power in 2009.

He made limited changes such as replacing security laws widely criticised as stifling dissent, offering a glimmer of hope for the end to repressive tactics by the UMNO-dominated coalition which has led Malaysia for six decades.

But soon after winning a second term in 2013, 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB), a fund launched by Najib to promote economic development, slid into a massive debt hole and allegations surfaced that money was missing.

The story exploded in 2015 when The Wall Street Journal published documents allegedly showing that the premier received $681 million in payments to his personal bank accounts.

Najib and 1MDB have consistently denied any wrongdoing.

Since then, there has been a steady drip of allegations. The US Department of Justice launched civil lawsuits seeking to seize $1.7 billion in assets allegedly bought with money looted from 1MDB, from real estate to artworks.

In a speech last year, US Attorney General Jeff Sessions criticised those allegedly involved in the scandal, adding: "This is kleptocracy at its worst." .

LOSING THE MALAY VOTE

As the controversy escalated, Najib lurched sharply to the right.

Opponents were arrested on various charges and critics were purged from government, while domestic investigations cleared him of wrongdoing.

His government lost the popular vote for the first time at the last elections in 2013.

But it was the return of veteran ex-premier Mahathir into frontline politics at the head the opposition, that finally signalled the end to Najib's rule.

Mahathir raised the stakes in the electoral battle against his former protege Najib, vowing to bring him to justice over 1MDB.

Analysts had widely predicted that Najib's Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition - which led Malaysia since independence from Britain in 1957 - would retain power.

That was partly thanks to claims that Najib's coalition had been manipulating the electoral system for years to tilt polls in their favour.

The 1MDB scandal may have grabbed international headlines, but in the rural heartlands of the Muslim Malays - who make up some 60 per cent of the multi-ethnic country's population - it is not the most important issue.

While the overall economic picture is improving, many voters in the countryside have struggled with inflated living costs.

Mahathir has succeeded in luring away Malays from Najib, chipping away at a support base that his government had nurtured with an official affirmative action programme and racially-charged rhetoric.

That saw the opposition make strong gains in long-time BN strongholds in the polls, including Sarawak state on Borneo island, and the state of Johor, the birthplace of UMNO.

 

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