Malaysia’s historic election: How the media reacted to the dawning of a new era in Malaysian politics

A common theme ran through many of Malaysia’s newspapers today as the nation digested the extraordinary election win of Mahathir Mohamad, a stunning victory which saw the ruling Barisan Nasional party lose power for the first time since independence in 1957.

After a day of uncertainty as defeated Najib Razak initially refused to concede defeat, Mahathir’s remarks that “heads will roll” made it into many headlines.

The Star, owned by the Star Media Group, gave ‘Dr M’ a cautious welcome, with journalist Joceline Tan suggesting the pressure to deliver is already on.

“A big mandate comes with big expectations but fortunately, the world’s oldest Prime Minister comes with a world of experience,” Tan wrote. “And the world is watching.”

The Malay Mail also focused on Mahathir’s combative comments as the Pakatan Harapan coalition took power.


As did the New Straits Times, although it was not obviously apparent what the paper’s view on the victory was. In its opinion section, the last piece was written by the defeated PM under the headline “The Right Choice to Make Malaysia Greater”.

Back at the Malay Mail, it appeared to lament the departure of Razak. Mahathir, it said, will “inherit an economy that’s growing more than 5 per cent, inflation that’s subdued and a currency that’s been one of Asia’s best performers”.

The election victory for 92-year-old Mahathir came after a bitter campaign. Najib was a one-time protege of Mahathir but the pair spectacularly fell out amid corruption allegations directed at Najib who had been in power for nine years, the last six as head of the ruling Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition.

BN had held power since independence in 1957.

In Singapore, the media unsurprisingly played a straight bat to events.

The SPH-owned Straits Times carried some diplomatic words from Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong who said Singapore was looking forward to developing a “constructive relationship” with the next Malaysian leadership and “hopes to catch up in person”.

Mediacorp’s Today initially focused on the uncertainty, detailing a “night of drama and confusion” surrounding the fiercely and tightly fought contest.

Later, it was one of the few publication’s which appeared to truly capture what it meant for the people, carrying a prominent image of celebrating Malaysians under the headline “Euphoria, disbelief and hope as Malaysians celebrate historic moment”.

The New Paper meanwhile, also owned by Singapore Press Holdings, spelt out how the new PM will be Malaysia’s oldest MP. He will, in fact, also become the world’s oldest Prime Minister.

It too reported how Singapore’s leader is preparing for a “constructive relationship” with the new Malaysian Government.


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