Mahathir claims victory in Malaysia polls

Ns News Online Desk:Ns News Online Desk: Former Premier Dr Mahathir Mohamad on Wednesday claimed victory in Malaysia’s general election.

The long-serving former premier told a press conference at 11.30pm that vote counting in most constituencies has been completed but that the Election Commission is refusing to endorse the results, The Straits Times reports.

Mahathir’s Pakatan Harapan (PH) made significant gains in Barisan Nasional’s (BN) stronghold states of Johor, Sabah and Negeri Sembilan, according to unofficial results.

“It would seem that we have practically achieved that figure of 112 and the figure for BN is very much less than that. There’s no way they can catch up. Unofficially we have captured… Penang, Selangor, Melaka, Negeri Sembilan and Johor and Kedah. So that’s six,” he said.

“This isn’t fake news. They are left far behind. The likelihood is that they (BN) would not be forming the government. We believe certain meetings are being held. And we worry what’s the intention of these meetings which involve big names,” Dr Mahathir added.

At the Umno headquarters, no BN leader has made an official comment to reporters there, as unofficial results show that PH is leading by 83 parliamentary seats to BN’s 61 seats, as at 12.30am. A new government can be formed with a simple majority of 112 out of Malaysia’s 222 parliamentary seats.

However, Umno youth chief Khairy Jamaluddin said on Twitter at midnight that “Malaysians have spoken. And the people’s voice is sacred. Good luck, Malaysia and thank you to all voters for carrying out your responsibility to the nation”.

In a press conference just after midnight, EC chairman Hashim Abdullah said the commission was still receiving results from officials across the country.

“Of course, the public is waiting and we fully understand this. But please give us a bit of time to make an official announcement. Please don’t worry, there is no conspiracy. We will make a declaration immediately. We ask the public to be patient,” he said.

Tan Sri Hashim acknowledged that he had earlier promised results would be known by 10pm on election day, but said that it was not possible as “we have yet to receive the information” from the polling centres.

So far, the EC has announced officials results for over 70 parliamentary seats, and 145 state constituencies.

PH’s targeted campaign in Johor, the birthplace of ruling party Umno, yielded some shock defeats for BN and several of its ministers and deputy ministers, including Malaysian Indian Congress (MIC) president Subramaniam Sathasivam in Segamat and Malaysian Chinese Association (MCA) vice-president Chua Tee Yong in Labis.

Unofficial results show MCA president and transport minister Liow Tiong Lai lost his seat in Bentong, Pahang, and Second Finance Minister Johari Abdul Ghani has also been defeated in Titiwangsa, Kuala Lumpur.

The opposition has also claimed that it has taken over the Negeri Sembilan state government.

“This success is the success of the people of Negeri Sembilan. This is a huge responsibility for the PH leadership to deliver the change desired by the people,” said PH Negeri Sembilan chief Aminuddin Harun.

PH appears to have also gained several seats in BN stronghold Sarawak, namely in Mas Gading, Saratok, Selangor and Puncak Borneo.

Who wins federal power is expected to be declared only after midnight.

The results are coming in amid claims from the opposition that the slow voting process and long queues have denied some of the 15 million registered voters their right to cast their ballot.

The final turnout is estimated at 76 per cent of registered voters, well below the record 85 per cent that turned out in 2013.

Just before polling centres closed, Dr Mahathir called on the Election Commission to ensure that voters are accorded their rights. PH had hoped for a high turnout to overcome the impact of what they claim are electoral boundaries skewed in BN’s favour.

“We have received reports that many are still gathered at polling centres and voting has been slow. By 5pm, they may not be able to vote if ballots are closed at that time. This denies their right to vote. I hope the EC will take note of this as it is not their fault, but because the voting process took too long,” he said in a video posted on his Facebook account.

It is unclear if there were still queues at any polling centres when voting closed at 5pm, but The Straits Times correspondents have observed the long queues at several centres gradually disappearing over the day and polls closing without incident.

Election Commission chief Hashim Abdullah dismissed the need for a time extension.

“We will close at 5pm for those not in the voting room,” he said in an interview with RTM1.

Tan Sri Hashim said this is because the 5pm closing time has been gazetted and votes cast past that time can be challenged in court to the detriment of certain parties.

Both sides said on Wednesday that they are set to claim victory. Dr Mahathir told reporters in the morning he is “confident unless Najib cheats” as “the people are not supportive of Najib. Even his 10 goodies that he offered yesterday, nobody cares”.

Mr Najib made a last-ditch pitch on Tuesday night, offering to waive income tax for Malaysians aged 26 and younger, and toll fares for all expressways during next month’s Hari Raya Aidilfitri celebrations.

He batted off Dr Mahathir’s claims, saying the opposition is “so desperate to spread these accusations and lies”.

“BN has presented a very comprehensive and credible manifesto that not only focuses on driving national development, but more importantly improves the well-being of the people. Based on that fact, God willing, I believe and am confident the people will give their votes to BN,” he said after casting his vote in his hometown seat of Pekan, Pahang, on Wednesday morning.

Malaysia’s 14th general election has become increasingly difficult to call in recent weeks, borne out by polling data suggesting that PH has gained on the ruling pact, despite earlier expectations that Mr Najib would cruise to victory, thanks to Parti Islam SeMalaysia splitting the anti-BN vote in three-quarters of parliamentary contests. Most observers expect BN to lose the popular majority again, but due to Malaysia’s first-past-the-post electoral system, it can still control Parliament and form the government after Wednesday’s vote.

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