FOR the first time since its independence in 1957, Malaysia saw a leader of the opposition sworn in as prime minister and invited to form a new government.
It was a momentous occasion that saw the now defeated Barisan Nasional coalition lose to Pakatan Harapan in a shock outcome in Wednesday’s general election. The new prime minister, Mahathir Mohamad, was sworn in late Thursday evening.
The news prompted disbelief and, in many cases, elation among the Malaysian people, many of whom thought this day would never come. It also drew congratulations and comment from governments and observers around the world.
Malaysia’s neighbour Singapore wished Malaysia all the best, with Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong calling the change of government a “major change in Malaysian politics.”
In a statement on Facebook, Lee said Singapore had a “vested interest in Malaysia’s stability and prosperity.” While his administration has worked successfully with the outgoing Barisan Nasional coalition, he looked forward to building an “equally constructive relationship” with the incoming Pakatan Harapan.
The European Union said “Malaysian people have voted for peaceful change.” They hoped there would be “a smooth and orderly transfer of power” in line with the Malaysian constitution.
“We look forward to working with the future government in Malaysia to further strengthen our relations for the benefit of all Malaysian and European citizens,” the EU said in a statement.
Mark Field, the UK Minister of State for Asia and the Pacific, said the results was a “victory for democracy and a testament to the Malaysian people.”
Congratulations to #Malaysia on this historic election – the result is a victory for democracy and testament to the Malaysian people. 🇬🇧 🇲🇾 relationship is deep and longstanding – look forward to working with new government on many shared interests. #GE14
— Mark Field MP (@MarkFieldUK) May 10, 2018
UK Ambassador to Malaysia, Vicki Treadall also shared fond memories of her time with Mahathir when he first held the office of prime minister from 1981 to 2003. She called his re-election “momentous & historic” on Twitter on Thursday night.
Here’s one frm the vault!
In 1997 UK hosted #CHOGM in #Edinburgh, I was the young @foreignoffice Malaysian delegation liaison officer. This was at the airport as I said goodbye to @chedetofficial & Tun Dr Siti Hasmah (I’m the one between them!).
Now I’m HC & he returns as PM! pic.twitter.com/mcYvwdsKNz
— VickiTreadell (@VickiTreadell) May 10, 2018
The US State Department released a statement congratulating the people of Malaysia for their “participation in a hard-fought election battle.” Spokesperson for the State Department Heather Nauert applauded Malaysians – from all parties, states and backgrounds – for engaging in the electoral process “peacefully and with great enthusiasm.”
“We fully expect all institutions to carry out their functions and duties to produce and implement official results in accordance with the Federal Constitution and the will of the people,” she said in a statement.
— U.S. Embassy KL (@usembassykl) May 10, 2018
Former Thailand prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra congratulated the incoming PM in a series of tweets on Thursday.
“The power of the people has spoken loud and clear that they do not only remember his outstanding legacy but needed his leadership,” he said.
Thaksin sang the praises of the new PM.
“His leadership would undoubtedly reinvigorate ASEAN as well as ideas and visions that he helped shape. I am certain that all the Thai people share my sentiment and respect towards him.”
My sincere congratulations to Dr. Mahathir Mohamed on his spectacular comeback. The power of the people has spoken loud and clear that they do not only remember his outstanding legacy but needed his leadership. (1) pic.twitter.com/whIOrkZXkg
— Thaksin Shinawatra (@ThaksinLive) May 10, 2018
Phil Robertson, Deputy Asia Director at Human Rights Watch, called it a “new day for human rights in Malaysia.” He also noted that it was encouraging to see Tony Pua, MP for Petaling Jaya Utara, winning his seat in parliament after the harassment he received for challenging corruption in government.
After all the flak, harassment, & abuse MP Tony Pua received from #Malaysia gov't for insisting on accountability for #1MDB funds, it's gratifying to see him winning his seat by 106,000 votes! Let that be a lesson to gov'ts that violate rights to harass & prosecute critics! #GE14 pic.twitter.com/BlftSMLjKE
— Phil Robertson (@Reaproy) May 9, 2018
While words of congratulation came from around the world, perhaps no one was more surprised and more elated than the opposition supporters at home.
😭♥️♥️♥️ i love MALAYSIA
IM PROUD TO SAY THAT IM MALAYSIAN #GE14
This is so beautiful
So proud of my country
This is democracy!
I’m about to cry seeing malay, chinese & indian singing NATIONAL anthem together. Malaysia reborn.
Reactions from Malaysians seeing this moment pic.twitter.com/EtmH70c6b7
— Jack Board (@JackBoardCNA) May 10, 2018
Pakatan Harapan made national history when it obtained 122 seats in Parliament, thereby enabling it to form a majority government. Former ruling coalition BN which has held power for the past six decades trailed behind with 79 seats, a significant drop from the 133 they secured in the 2013 general election.