Not long after midnight, the crowd of thousands began to sense that something historic was taking place. They had gathered on a vast lawn to watch the election results roll in through the night, and the mood was cheerful and relaxed. Here, in Petaling Jaya, a heavily residential city that blends into Kuala Lumpur, support for the opposition party, Pakatan Harapan, the Alliance of Hope, runs high, and as P.H.’s tally began to outstrip that of Barisan Nasional, the ruling party, everyone present began to contemplate the unthinkable: the end of the only government Malaysia has ever known. The ramifications of P.H.’s stunning victory in Wednesday’s elections are only just starting to filter through. The person who appears to be our new prime minister is Mahathir Mohamad, who is 92 years old and earlier served as prime minister — with B.N. Even after the election commission confirmed this morning that P.H. had won at least 112 of the 222 seats in Parliament (or the simple majority that entitles it to form the next government) Najib Razak, the outgoing prime minister, was not clearly conceding his loss. Twelve of the country’s 13 states also held assembly elections yesterday, and B.N. won in just three.
P.H.’s victories defied predictions from almost every corner. Up against B.N.’s massive, well-oiled party machinery and deep pockets, the opposition’s candidates at times looked ragged and disorganized. Even in Kuala Lumpur and its satellite cities, which traditionally enjoy strong opposition support, the dark blue banners of the government coalition crowded out P.H.’s light blue-and-red flags, making the incumbent authority’s presence often feel overwhelming.
Other key factors stacked the odds against P.H. even more: the late-stage redrawing of the boundaries of numerous voting constituencies; the decision to hold the election midweek, which made it difficult for working people to vote (after a popular uproar, May 9 was later declared a public holiday); the disqualification of Tian Chua, a star of the P.H. coalition, for an unpaid fine of about $500; the election commission’s delay in sending postal ballot forms to overseas voters, which resulted in many of them not being able to cast their vote.