Malaysia's ruling party has been ousted for the first time in the country’s 60-year history after an opposition alliance won a historic victory in national elections.
Opposition leader Mahathir Mohamad is set to be sworn in as prime minister within a day after securing a parliamentary majority.
Official results showed the opposition parties, which banded together as the Alliance of Hope, had surpassed the 112 seats needed for power.
The result is a political earthquake for Muslim-majority Malaysia, sweeping aside the government of prime minister Najib Razak, whose reputation was tarnished by a corruption scandal and the imposition of an unpopular sales tax.
The opposition also made big gains in state elections and won Johor state, where the dominant Malay party in the long-ruling National Front coalition was founded.
In a televised address, Mr Mahathir said a representative of Malaysia’s constitutional monarchy had contacted the opposition to acknowledge its victory. He said a prime minister, expected to be him, would be sworn in by tomorrow.
The 92-year-old was Malaysia’s authoritarian leader for 22 years until 2003. He emerged from retirement after being angered by the corruption scandal and joined the opposition to fight against Mr Najib, his former protege.
Mr Mahathir, who was credited with modernising Malaysia during his previous rule, pledged that his new government would not seek “revenge” against political opponents.
Analysts said the opposition victory was a resounding rejection of the political status quo in a country where the National Front and Malay party have dominated politics since Malaysia won independence from the UK in 1957.
“This is a repudiation of Najib’s government from all walks of life from the very rural northern states to the more industrial southern coast,” said Bridget Welsh, a southeast Asia expert at John Cabot University in Rome.
The US Justice Department says $4.5bn (£3.3bn) was looted from state investment fund 1MBD by associates of Mr Najib between 2009 and 2014. Of that, $700m (£517m) allegedly landed in Mr Najib’s bank account. He has denied wrongdoing.
Analysts had predicted the National Front might lose the popular vote but hold onto a majority in parliament due to an electoral system that gives more power to rural Malays, the party’s traditional supporters.
Faced with a reinvigorated opposition, the government used all the levers of power to further tilt the playing field in its favour, critics and analysts said.
A recently passed "fake news" law was an attempt to stifle debate and criticism, opponents claimed.
Redrawn electoral boundaries were also rushed through parliament last month, pushing likely opposition voters into districts that already support the opposition and dividing constituencies along racial lines.
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