Malaysia’s former leader Mahathir Mohamad is to become the world's oldest elected leader at 92, after a shock victory in the country's bitterly fought election. The former PM came out of retirement and defected to the opposition to take on his one-time protégé Najib Razak, beset by corruption allegations. The election marks the first time Mr Najib’s United Malays National Organisation (Umno) party and its allies have lost an election since independence in 1957.
Mahathir led the coalition as Malaysia’s prime minister for 22 years, starting in 1981. As one of the country’s most eminent leaders, he was pugnacious, uncompromising and intolerant of dissent, but turned Malaysia from a sleepy backwater into one of the world’s modern industrialised nations. Mahathir ruled Malaysia with an iron fist from 1981 to 2003 and his alliance of four parties trounced the Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition of Prime Minister Najib Razak, who was once Mahathir’s mentor but became his most bitter rival.
Mahathir told a press conference this morning that Pakatan Harapan, the opposition coalition, had the support of 135 members of the 222-member parliament. The result comes as a jolt to global markets and the cost to insure against a Malaysia debt default in five years rose in late US trading on Wednesday as an alliance of opposition parties stunned the ruling coalition in a general election, which may result in far-reaching economic consequences. Aninda Mitra, senior sovereign analyst at BNY Mellon Investment Management told CNBC: “The Malaysia election outcome is a huge upset, no pollster was expecting this. “This upset ranks up there with Brexit and the Trump election.”