Najib says the country's king will have responsibility for appointing the next prime minister as no party won a majority in the election, but his opponent Mahathir Mohamad said he expects to be sworn in as the new premier today.

Malaysia's outgoing Prime Minister Najib Razak leaves after a news conference following the general election in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia on May 10, 2018.
Malaysia's outgoing Prime Minister Najib Razak leaves after a news conference following the general election in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia on May 10, 2018. (Reuters)

Malaysia's Prime Minister Najib Razak, who led the ruling National Front coalition to a historic election loss, conceded defeat on Thursday and said the country's king would appoint a new premier.

At a televised news conference, Najib said, "I and my colleagues accept the verdict of the people." He said the National Front "will honour the principle of democracy in the parliament."

An alliance of opposition parties spearheaded by Mahathir Mohamad, 92, won 113 of parliament’s 222 seats on Thursday, ending the National Front's 60-year hold on power.

Because no single party won a majority in the election, Najib said the country's king would have responsibility for appointing the next prime minister.

"The National Front will respect whatever decision is made by the king," he said. "I urge all Malaysians to be calm and to trust the king's wisdom to make the best choice."

TRT World's Natalie Poyhonen has more.

Clear mandate to govern

In a lively news conference on Thursday, Mahathir disputed Najib's assertion that Malaysia's king must appoint the new prime minister because no single party has a parliamentary majority, calling it "confusion." 

"We expect today for me to be sworn in as prime minister," he said, addressing concerns over a delay.

The constitution, he said, only specifies that the prime minister must represent those with a majority in the legislature. 

"We need to have this government today without delay," he added.

He also flagged significant changes for Malaysia which he described as being left in a "mess" by Najib and the National Front coalition.

"There is a lot of work to be done. You know the mess the country is in and we need to attend to this mess as soon as possible," Mahathir said.

Najib, whose reputation was battered by an epic corruption scandal and an unpopular goods and sales tax, conceded defeat, ending 60 years of unbroken rule by the Malay-dominated National Front.

The US Justice Department says $4.5 billion was looted from state investment fund 1MBD by associates of Najib between 2009 and 2014, including $700 million that landed in Najib's bank account. He has denied wrongdoing.

Mahathir, leader for 22 years until stepping down in 2003, said the new government would seek the release and full pardon of Anwar Ibrahim, an opposition icon imprisoned on sodomy charges that Anwar and his supporters said were fabricated by the National Front to crush the opposition. 

Anwar, whose sentence ends on June 8, should be free to participate in politics, he said.

He also criticised a "fake news" law pushed through parliament by the National Front during the lead-up to the election. Mahathir is being investigated under that law for claiming his plane had been sabotaged during the campaign.

Negotiation with China

On the economic front, Mahathir vowed to cancel a goods and service tax imposed since 2015 and said the government could also renegotiate the terms of Chinese loans for infrastructure projects.

The 92-year-old said he supported China's Belt and Road initiative (BRI) but said Malaysia reserved the right to renegotiate terms of some agreements with Beijing, if necessary.

"We have no problem with that (BRI), except of course we would not like to see too many warships in this area because (a) warship attracts other warships," he said.

A Nomura report last month showed that Malaysia is one of the largest beneficiaries of Chinese investment commitments in Asia, securing $34.2 billion of BRI-related infrastructure projects, which have prompted critics to accuse Najib of "selling" Malaysia to the Asian powerhouse.

Source: TRTWorld and agencies