KUALA LUMPUR — Malaysians cast their ballots Saturday in a watershed election, with multiple parties running neck and neck amid global economic headwinds.
Nearly 1,000 candidates — the oldest being 97-year-old former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad — are battling for 221 parliamentary seats. The latest surveys showed none of the three major camps on track to win at least half the seats, possibly setting up a scramble for alliances to form a government.
The opposition Hope Pact led by long time leadership aspirant Anwar Ibrahim aims to recover the mandate it won in 2018, which was snatched away by the incumbent National Front through unprecedented political maneuvering. The core of the National Front, Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob’s United Malays National Organization (UMNO), sees that loss as a blip in its otherwise uninterrupted run in power since independence.
Polling ended at 6 pm local time, and the results should crystallize by the wee hours of Sunday.
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Here are the latest updates (local time):
Monday, Nov. 21
1:45 p.m The Malaysian King has extended by 24 hours the deadline for parties to form a new government, to 2 pm on Tuesday, as the National Alliance’s Muhyiddin Yassin and the Hope Pact’s Anwar Ibrahim scurry to persuade smaller parties for support. “The king has called upon the people to be patient and be calm until the new government formation and naming of the 10th Prime Minister is completed,” the statement from the Palace reads.
Muhyiddin, the first to claim to have won over a majority of the newly elected lower house members, has received the support of Borneo parties that won a cumulative 28 seats. Anwar, meanwhile, was seen in a discussion with the National Front on Monday afternoon in Kuala Lumpur. The National Front, led by Ahmad Zahid Hamidiwon 30 seats in the lower house election held on Saturday. Hope Pact officially won 82 seats. A coalition will need at least 112 to form a government.
Sunday, Nov. 20
2:20 p.m The palace issues a statement asking leaders of political parties to submit their coalition of choice by tomorrow 2 pm local time. The Malaysian King Sultan Abdullah Ri’ayatuddin is then expected to make a final decision to end the political uncertainty after the Saturday general election ended with an unprecedented hung parliament, leaving no parties and coalitions able to prove a majority.
3:45 a.m Opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim claims his Hope Pact coalition also has enough support from lawmakers to form the next government without providing details about which lawmakers or political parties are backing him. Hope Pact officially won 82 seats, which is less than half of the 222 total lower house seats.
“I am announcing that we have obtained the majority [of seats]. Majority means more than 111 seats,” Anwar told reporters. “We have to first submit documents to the King. [Hope Pact] has the biggest bloc and we have the understanding to form the government,” added Anwar.
3:20 a.m National Alliance coalition leader Muhyiddin Yassin declares his alliance will form the next government in collaboration with other parties. The National Alliance, which has won 70 seats so far, is expected to work together with the National Front, which has 30 seats, and the Borneo parties, which have secured 31 seats so far. Muhyiddin, however, did not commit to any agreements with any parties and added that all negotiations will be completed by Sunday evening.
3:15 a.m Anwar wins the Tambun seat in the northern state of Perak by 3,736 votes. He defeats former federal minister Faizal Azumu, who represented the National Alliance coalition.
2 a.m The election commission reports that of the 222 seats being contested, the National Alliance led by former Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin is narrowly leading with 62 seats, ahead of the Anwar Ibrahim-led Hope Pact’s 61. The ruling National Front has so far claimed 26 seats. .
12:00 am The Anwar Ibrahim-led Hope Pact has officially won 28 seats and is seen leading in 65 constituencies, while the National Alliance led by former leader Muhyiddin Yassin has been declared the winner in 26 seats while leading in 43 seats. The ruling National Front is seen winning 15 and leading in 18 seats.
Saturday, Nov. 19
11:50 p.m Former prime minister Mahathir Mohamad has failed to defend his Langkawi parliamentary seat, an unofficial count confirms. He lost his deposit after failing to gain at least 20% of votes cast.
Mahathir, 97, who served twice as the country’s prime minister for a cumulative 24 years, was trailing the winner from the National Alliance by more than 11,000 votes.
This is Mahathir’s first defeat in parliamentary elections since 1969. He was vying for his 10th term as a federal lawmaker
Mahathir told Nikkei Asia in a recent interview that he would retire if he lost his seat.
Separately, Prime Minister aspirant Anwar Ibrahim, who leads the Hope Pact coalition, won the Tambun constituency in northern Perak state by more than 4,100 votes, an unofficial count shows. He defeated former federal minister Faizal Azumu, who represented the National Alliance coalition.
10:35 p.m National Alliance chairman and former Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin wins the Pagoh seat in the southern state of Johor, reports state news agency Bernama.
Meanwhile, an unofficial count shows Anwar Ibrahim’s Hope Pact leading in 64 constituencies, the Muhyiddin-led National Alliance leading in 39 constituencies and the National Front, which includes UMNO, ahead in 19 seats.
9:20 p.m The Anwar Ibrahim-led Hope Pact is seen leading in 54 constituencies, while the National Alliance led by former leader Muhyiddin Yassin is ahead in 37, based on unofficial figures. The ruling National Front is seen trailing, with an edge in just 17 constituencies. Vote counting continues and is at various stages nationwide.
8:20 p.m The Anwar Ibrahim-led Hope Pact is seen leading in 47 constituencies, while the National Front is seen ahead in 13. The constituencies are at various stages of counting.
The unofficial results come from the respective state voting centers, where the official numbers will only be announced after the conclusion of all votes in a constituency
7:00 p.m The latest turnout data, as of 4 pm, shows a ratio of 70%, or 14.8 million voters.
6:00 p.m It’s closing time at the polls. Now we wait for the results to trickle in.
Ballot boxes will be sealed by Election Commission officials and transported to the counting centers. Each parliamentary constituency will have one counting center.
As of 3 pm, turnout stood at 65%, or 13.7 million people.
5:25 p.m The Election Commission has suspended voting in Baram, on the island of Borneo, due to bad weather. This means the total seats up for grabs on Saturday will be 220, instead of the original 222. A separate polling date will be announced in due course for Baram as well as Padang Serai, where the vote was postponed until next month due to the sudden death of a candidate.
3:55 p.m Some Malaysians used the opportunity to engage in some cos-playing, showing up to cast their ballots dressed as superheroes like Captain America, Predator, Iron Man and Power Rangers.
3:50 p.m Over 12.2 million voters had cast ballots as of 2 pm, 58% of all those eligible.
3:45 p.m Turnout is one key factor to watch. Another is how younger citizens vote. As many as 1.4 million of the 21.17 million eligible voters are first timers, after the minimum age was lowered to 18 from 21.
2:15 p.m The Election Commission says 50% of voters had cast their ballots by 1 pm, a slower pace than in 2018 when the percentage at the same time was 55%. However, this year the voter base is larger, and the number of voters who cast their ballots by 1 pm was 10.5 million, compared to 8.22 million four years ago.
2:00 p.m The meteorology department warns of thunderstorms and heavy rain in the southern state of Johor and in some parts of Sabah state, on Borneo island.
1:50 p.m The country’s Election Commission tweets that by noon 42% of voters had cast their ballots. Turnout for the last federal election, in 2018, was 82%.
1:20 p.m The skies above the capital cleared up after a morning drizzle, but local media reported that voters in the interior areas of the state of Sarawak, on Borneo, are braving floodwaters to cast their ballots.
1:00 p.m Former prime ministers Mahathir Mohamad and Muhyiddin Yassin appear at their polling stations to cast votes.
11:10 a.m Anwar Ibrahim, who leads the opposition coalition Hope Pact, arrives at a polling center in Penang state and casts his vote alongside many other citizens. Ismail Sabri Yaakob, prime minister and vice president in the ruling UMNO, is also seen casting his ballot in Bera, Pahang state.
8:00 a.m Election day is underway as the polls are fully open. A key question is how the monsoon season might affect turnout. The Meteorological Department gave a mixed forecast for election day, with rain expected in some parts of the country.
7:00 a.m Pollster Merdeka Center For Opinion Research in its latest survey on Friday projected opposition coalition Hope Pact to lead with 82 seats, out of 221, followed by National Alliance with 43. UMNO-led National Front is expected to garner 15 seats, with 45 considered a tossup.