Malaysia's Outgoing PM Acknowledges Defeat, Says His Govt Was ‘Not Perfect’

Hadi Azmi and Hareez Lee
Kuala Lumpur and Petaling Jaya, Malaysia
180510_MY_VOTE_NR2.jpg Malaysia's outgoing Prime Minister Najib Razak speaks to reporters during a press conference at Putra World Trade Centre in Kuala Lumpur, May 10, 2018.

Updated at 3:32 a.m. ET on 2018-05-10

In a somber press conference hours after Malaysian election results were announced, outgoing Prime Minister Najib Razak said he would respect the outcome of voting while accusing his electoral rival of sedition.

Without mentioning him by name, Najib referred to a speech former premier Mahathir Mohamad had given around midnight Wednesday slamming the slow pace of electoral results and suggesting the delay was deliberate and an indication of results manipulation.

"There was also allegations that my friends and I were planning to have a National Security Council meeting last night ... to declare an emergency. That is another example of sedition," Najib said while flanked by outgoing Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, outgoing Defense Minister Hishammuddin Hussein and other senior members of his government.

"No such meeting took place," said the 64-year-old leader, calling the election a "tough clash" marked by "slander" against his government.

In brief remarks at his party headquarters in Malaysia's capital, Najib, who had been prime minister since 2009, never mentioned Mahathir or the opposition coalition that ousted his government by name.

He said Malaysia's king would decide whom to select as Malaysia's next prime minister as no party had achieved a simple majority of parliament seats.

Official results showed that parties in the informal Pakatan Harapan alliance, which had announced Mahathir as its prime minister candidate, won 113 of parliament’s 222 seats, while Najib's Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition won 79.

"BN will honor whatever decision His Majesty will make and I urge all Malaysia's to keep calm and have faith in the king's wisdom to make the best decision," he said.

"I accept and my friends all accept the verdict of the people, and Barisan Nasional is committed to respect the principle of parliamentary democracy.”

'Let’s not waste more time'

Appearing before reporters about 90 minutes later in Selangor, Mahathir said leaders of his alliance had written to Malaysia’s king, Sultan Mohammad V of Kelantan, asking for a new prime minister to be sworn in as soon as possible.

“We would like to make it clear that there is the urgency here to form a government now. Today. That is because there is currently no government of Malaysia,” Mahathir said.

“We hope that by 5 o’clock today we will have a new government.”

He said his coalition now claimed the allegiance of “well over 135 MPs” including the Sabah Heritage Party and “other individuals in Sabah.”

“Pakatan Harapan has already won a clear majority and therefore we are entitled to form a government,” Mahathir said.

Separately, the sultan of Johor, Sultan Ibrahim Ibni Almarhum Sultan Iskandar, called for a new prime minister to be sworn in without delay.

“Elections [are] over. I ask for everyone to respect the choice of the people. I hereby ask for a government to be established immediately and let’s not waste more time,” he said in a statement.

'Not perfect'

In his earlier remarks, while thanking his colleagues and their families, Najib said his government had elevated Malaysians’ quality of life and was proud of its record, but "there are things that are not perfect in the time when we were in power."

Najib has been buffeted by a scandal over 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB), a state fund from which billions of dollars were allegedly siphoned off.

The U.S. Justice Department says $4.5 billion was looted from 1MBD by associates of Najib, including $700 million that landed in his private bank accounts. He has denied any wrongdoing.

In a statement late Wednesday the U.S State Department congratulated Malaysia for a hard-fought election campaign and high levels of peaceful participation in the electoral process.

“We fully expect all institutions will carry out their functions and duties to produce and implement official results in accordance with the federal constitution and the will of the people,” it said.

N. Natha in Kuala Lumpur contributed to this report.


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