Wed, 29 Nov 2023

Kuala Lumpur [Malaysia], November 20 (ANI): Mahathir Mohamad, the 97-year-old elder statesman of Malaysian politics, lost his parliamentary seat in Saturday's polls, likely ending the career of one of Asia's most enduring politicians.

Malaysians cast their ballots Saturday in a watershed election, with multiple parties running neck and neck amid global economic headwinds, reported Nikkei Asia.

Former prime minister Mahathir Mohamad has failed to defend his Langkawi parliamentary seat, an unofficial count confirms. He lost his deposit after failing to gain at least 20 per cent of votes cast.

It was his first electoral defeat in more than half a century. Mahathir held the Guinness World Record for being the "world's oldest current prime minister" when he became premier for a second time in 2018 just two months shy of his 93rd birthday.

Mahathir, 97, who served twice as the country's prime minister for a cumulative 24 years, was trailing the winner from the National Alliance by more than 11,000 votes.

This is Mahathir's first defeat in parliamentary elections since 1969. He was vying for his 10th term as a federal lawmakerMahathir told Nikkei Asia in a recent interview that he would retire if he lost his seat.

Visibly slowed by age but still looking healthy, he ran this time around under his own Homeland Fighters' Party and had laughed off suggestions he should retire, telling reporters before the election he had a "good chance" of winning.

"I'm still standing around and talking to you, I think, making reasonable answers," Mahathir said.

He added his party would not form any alliances with parties that are led by "crooks or jailbirds" -- an apparent reference to the United Malays National Organisation (UMNO), the party of jailed former prime minister Najib Razak.

Separately, Prime Minister aspirant Anwar Ibrahim, who leads the Hope Pact coalition, won the Tambun constituency in northern Perak state by more than 4,100 votes, an unofficial count shows. He defeated former federal minister Faizal Azumu, who represented the National Alliance coalition.

Meanwhile, an unofficial count shows Anwar Ibrahim's Hope Pact leading in 64 constituencies, the Muhyiddin-led National Alliance leading in 39 constituencies and the National Front, which includes UMNO, ahead in 19 seats, reported Nikkei Asia.

The unofficial results come from the respective state voting centres, where the official numbers will only be announced after the conclusion of all votes in a constituency.

Many rural Malays, who form two-thirds of Malaysia's 33 million people, which include large minorities of ethnic Chinese and Indians, fear they may lose their rights with greater pluralism. This, together with corruption in UMNO, has benefited Muhyiddin's bloc, especially its ally, the Pan-Malaysian Islamic Party, or PAS, which touts Sharia. PAS rules three states and has a strong Muslim base.

With vote counting underway early Sunday, there was still no clear winner.

If Anwar's bloc fails to win enough seats or seek an alliance for a majority in Parliament, it may be sidelined again by the UMNO-Muhyiddin alliance. Both sides will have to court support from two states on Borneo island, which account for a quarter of parliamentary seats. The two states are traditionally aligned with UMNO.

The economy and rising cost of living were chief concerns for voters, though many are apathetic due to political turmoil that has led to three prime ministers since the 2018 polls. (ANI)

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