Malaysian opposition wins first-ever national election, ending 60 years of single-party rule
A coalition of opposition parties won control of Malaysia's government on Wednesday, unseating scandal-tarred Prime Minister Najib Razak and ending 60 years of rule by the National Front party. According to official results, the opposition Alliance of Hope has more than the 112 parliamentary seats needed to form a new government, and Mahathir Mohamad — Najib's mentor and a former authoritarian prime minister — is expected to be sworn in as soon as Friday. At that point, Mahathir, 92, will be the oldest elected leader in the world.
Mahathir came out of retirement to join the opposition after Najib's government became embroiled in a massive corruption investigation involving a state investment fund, One Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB). The U.S. Justice Department says Najib's associates stole $4.5 billion from the fund, and $700 million ended up in Najib's bank accounts while millions more was laundered in the U.S. through banks, a Picasso gifted to Leonardo DiCaprio, and expensive real estate, among other vehicles. Najib has denied wrongdoing.
Opposition parties, many of whose leaders were jailed by Mahathir during his 22-year rule, agreed that the former prime minister was their best hope for wresting control from Najib and the dominant National Front. The Alliance for Hope scored its landmark victory in state and national elections despite newly drawn gerrymandered districts, a recent "fake news" law critics said was a tool to silence dissent, and electoral laws that give outsize power to the National Front's base in rural areas. Critics also say Najib used all the tools at his disposal to quash investigations into the 1MDB scandal.
"We are not seeking revenge," Mahathir said Thursday morning, as Malaysians celebrated in the streets. "What we want to do is restore the rule of law." You can learn more about the 1MDB investigation — including cameos by President Trump and his D.C. hotel, DiCaprio, a flashy Malaysian playboy, and Paris Hilton — at the PRX show Reveal.