Malaysia leader votes, says campaign was vicious

Could Malaysia's Mahathir Mohamad Become the World's Oldest Leader? He Speaks to TIME About What Sparked His

Could Malaysia's Mahathir Mohamad Become the World's Oldest Leader? He Speaks to TIME About What Sparked His

Official results from Malaysia's national election show the opposition alliance led by the country's former authoritarian ruler Mahathir Mohamad has won a majority in parliament, ending the 60-year rule of the National Front.

They will be the leaders' final speeches before polls open on Wednesday at 0000 GMT.

Kuala Lumpur: Voters have a stark choice in Malaysia's election today: resurrect the country's 92-year-old former authoritarian leader or give a third term to Prime Minister Najib Razak, whose alleged role in the multibillion-dollar ransacking of a state investment fund has battered Malaysia's standing overseas.

"There is no way they can catch up", Mahathir said, referring to the Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition which has led Malaysia since independence from Britain in 1957.

Meanwhile, candidates from both the Barisan Nasional coalition and the opposition have complained about receiving non-stop spam calls.

The race is expected to be tight.

Results started trickling in a few hours after polls closed, with BN having a slight early lead with 14 seats to nine for the opposition, according to the Election Commission.

Analysts expect turnout to come in lower than at the last election in 2013, when it was about 85 percent, which could be a blow for the opposition who say they need a high figure for victory. Final results are expected late Wednesday or early Thursday. "He made people feel that a transition of power is possible", said Welsh, in Kuala Lumpur to observe the polls.

It is also a surprising exception to backsliding on democratic values in Southeast Asia, a region of more than 600 million people where governments of countries including Thailand, Cambodia and the Philippines have swung toward harsh authoritarian rule.

Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak has called the election campaign "quite vicious" after casting his vote in the coastal city of Pekan.

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"The most important thing is for people to decide on the destiny of this nation, and it must be based on facts", the 64-year-old told reporters.

Mahathir Mohamad says the new Malaysian government will not be seeking revenge on defeated prime minister Najib Razak, who is accused of involvement in a corruption scandal at state investment fund 1MDB.

A dodgy electoral re-distribution which has increased already-gerrymandered electorates, new "fake news" laws created to shut down discussion of Najib's involvement in the 1MDB sovereign wealth fund scandal and friendly mainstream media are among the factors that could ensure the governing coalition hangs on to power.

USA investigators say at least $4.5 billion was stolen from the fund by associates of Najib between 2009 and 2014, including $700 million that landed in Najib's bank account. But in his attempt to unseat Mr. Najib in this campaign, he joined with opposition leaders he once sent to jail.

The country's rising cost of living is a hot topic, and a Goods and Services Tax (GST) introduced in 2015, as well as the depreciation of the ringgit, have hit many Malaysians.

As polls opened, senior opposition figures claimed their phones were flooded with spam calls from overseas to hamper their communications, with Lim Kit Siang - a key opposition leader - accusing the ruling coalition of "dirty tricks".

The internet regulator blamed the attacks on "bots" (automated programmes) and said it would investigate.

While the opposition has gained ground, it faces an uphill battle to defeat a coalition that has never lost an election.

Redrawn electoral boundaries were rushed through parliament last month, pushing likely opposition voters into districts that already support the opposition and dividing constituencies along racial lines.

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