PETALING JAYA,. It was a sleepless night for Malaysians, including the 11.5 million who voted on May 9.
Voters came out in huge numbers bright and early to cast their ballots, but polling day wound up with numerous recounts, emergency meetings and endless speculation before the Election Commission (EC) finally recognised the desire of the rakyat in declaring a Pakatan Harapan (PH) victory at 4.50am — a day after polling ended — when unofficially, the results were known as early as 11pm the night before.
The long wait that lasted 48 hours or 60 years, whichever way you look at it, is finally over. Barisan Nasional (BN) is out of power and Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad is prime minister again albeit as leader of the unregistered PH coalition following his oath of office before the King at 9.57pm at Istana Negara.
Here’s the key moments that defined a dramatic post-polling day.
Khairy Jamaluddin turns up at Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s residence
With an expected BN victory, celebrations were due to go down at Umno headquarters next to the Putra World Trade Centre (PWTC) in the late evening of May 9, along with a press conference.
By midnight however the only reports emerging from PWTC was the absence of Umno party leaders that indicated something was amiss.
This was confirmed around 2.30am on May 10 when former youth and sports minister Khairy Jamaluddin was seen speeding off by car to the Kuala Lumpur residence of then-caretaker prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak at Jalan Duta where a top-level meeting with party bigwigs was taking place.
Some news, please?
Official word from the EC was coming through slower than a jam crawl along the Federal Highway.
Counting was slow, and not “Malaysian timing” slow, more like “what is taking so long?” slow.
It is not clear how many recounts took place, but considering the seismic fall of BN stronghold states such as Negri Sembilan, Johor and Melaka, recounts to verify PH victory were pointed to the likely cause of delay in result announcements.
Dr Mahathir told a press conference at Sheraton Hotel in Petaling Jaya by 11.50pm May 9 that the three states had fallen to PH, but Johor and Negri Sembilan wasn’t confirmed by the EC until more than two and a half hours later past 2am on May 10.
A simple majority was declared shortly before 5am, by far the latest announcement in recent history. BN’s victories in 2013 and 2008 were both made official around 1am.
A new Malaysia at dawn
Sunrise was marked with the realisation Malaysia is set to have a new government likely to be led by 92-year-old Dr Mahathir, who would return to office after retiring in 2003 as the country’s seventh prime minister and the world’s oldest democratically elected leader.
Deliberations in Sabah
It was around 7am when the situation in hotly contested Sabah intensified.
BN managed to capture 29 state seats but not enough to form a simple majority government, missing out by just one seat.
Parti Warisan Sabah (Warisan) led by Datuk Seri Mohd Shafie Apdal won 21 seats while DAP and PKR each won six and two seats, respectively.
Shafie’s scheduled 9am press conference was put on hold until Datuk Wilfred Madius Tangau’s United Pasok Momogun Kadazandusun Murut organisation (Upko) could determine which parties would team up to form a coalition government there. Musical chairs ensued.
Najib concedes defeat
BN chairman Najib, whose coalition amassed their lowest ever popular vote of 36.42 per cent according to Malay Mail’s calculations, conceded defeat at 11.30am on May 10.
“I and my colleagues accept the verdict of the people,” he said in a “live” televised press conference from PWTC.
Dr M’s swearing-in ceremony on ice
Less than an hour later, a “sleepy” Dr Mahathir faced the press again at Sheraton PJ to announce the need for a new prime minister to be sworn in before 5pm May 10, saying that Najib’s role as caretaker PM was over and had in fact ended the night before.
He also announced the widely-detested goods and services tax (GST) introduced by the Najib administration will be cancelled and the old sales and services tax (SST) will be brought back. All the while avoiding the temptation to attack his defeated opponent.
Things were happening real fast
“We are not seeking revenge. What we want is to restore the rule of law,” Dr Mahathir said, shortly before he humorously reminded the gathered journalists there is no rule about whether he has to be “liked” by other party members or the Yang di-Pertuan Agong to become prime minister, though he believes himself to be a “nice” man.
At 3pm May 10, despite Dr Mahathir’s affirmations, an Istana Negara official reportedly said there will be no swearing-in ceremony held that day. The reason was unclear.
It’s worth noting at this point in time, there was no government in charge, meaning Malaysia was temporarily lawless.
Decked out in a black baju Melayu with a gold kain samping, Dr Mahathir and wife Tun Dr Siti Hasmah Mohamad Ali pulled up at the palace just after 4.30pm being driven in Proton Perdana bearing the license plate “Proton 2020”.
PH supporters, who had been camping out as early as 3pm, and the media greeted the PM in-waiting who was expected to be sworn in at 5pm.
As ever with Malaysia’s flexible time-keeping however the ceremony was delayed once again, leaving the country swearing under their breath by this point.
It wasn’t until after 7pm it was learned the swearing-in was officially set for 9.30pm.
Back in Sabah…
Eventually Datuk Jeffrey Kitingan’s Parti Solidariti Tanah Airku, who won two state seats, opted to enter BN to give the latter the 31 seats needed to form the state government by a simple majority. This was confirmed at roughly 6.30pm May 10.
Dr M sworn in
Dr Mahathir was finally sworn in by Yang di-Pertuan Agong at 9.57pm May 10, closing a tumultuous 35 hours since Malaysians headed to the polls on May 9.