Malaysia Votes 2018

BN's big names toppled, one after another

(From left) Umno candidate and Felda chairman, Tan Sri Shahrir Samad, Transport Minister and Malaysian Chinese Association president Liow Tiong Lai and Second Finance Minister Johari Abdul Ghani. PHOTOS: THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK

At 11.30pm, the silence was deafening at Putra World Trade Centre, the headquarters of Malaysia's Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition.

With barely any supporters in sight, rows upon rows of chairs lay empty. No one watched the video cataloguing BN's achievements or strained to follow the slow-moving analysis vended by TV1 that did not quite capture the rout that was unravelling in what has been dubbed "the mother of all elections".

One after another, BN's stalwarts fell to the opposition.

The media, waiting for Prime Minister Najib Razak to make an appearance and explain the mounting losses, entertained themselves by snapping group photos.

A press conference was widely expected, but it was announced at 1.30am that it had been postponed to 11am today.

People kept their eyes peeled for a few Umno bigwigs, including Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi and Defence Minister Hishammuddin Hussein, who were believed to be holed up inside the conference rooms.

But Datuk Seri Hishammuddin dodged the media and went straight to the party's office at Menara Dato Onn. Wanita Umno chief Shahrizat Abdul Jalil also left without uttering a word.

The sole exception was BN Youth leader Khairy Jamaluddin, who tweeted, even before the Election Commission officially announced the results: "Malaysians have spoken. And the people's voices are sacred. Good luck, Malaysia and thank you to all voters for performing your responsibility to your country."

The scale of the losses appeared to have left Umno dumbfounded.

Transport Minister and Malaysian Chinese Association (MCA) president Liow Tiong Lai lost his seat in Bentong, Pahang. Second Finance Minister Johari Abdul Ghani was booted from Titiwangsa, Kuala Lumpur.

In Johor, Health Minister and Malaysian Indian Congress (MIC) president Subramaniam Sathasivam lost Segamat and MCA vice-president Chua Tee Yong relinquished Labis. Deputy Home Minister Nur Jazlan Mohamed was bested in Pulai, the seat once held by his father, an Umno veteran - perhaps, felled by the perception that he had abandoned the Public Accounts Committee inquiry into graft allegations at 1MDB.

But the biggest shocker in the state was dealt by Johor Baru to Umno candidate and Felda chairman, Tan Sri Shahrir Samad.

And the losses kept trickling in.

Minister of Plantation Industries and Commodities Mah Siew Keong was forced out of Teluk Intan, Perak.

In Setiawangsa, Kuala Lumpur, Tan Sri Zulhasnan Rafique was brought down by a newbie, Parti Keadilan Rakyat's (PKR) youth chief Nik Nazmi Nik Ahmad.

Similarly in Muar, Johor, Datuk Seri Razali Ibrahim lost to another first-timer, Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia's Syed Saddiq Syed Abdul Rahman.

An interesting twist in Kuala Lumpur saw Mr Fahmi Fadzil, a new face fielded by PKR, beat Datuk Seri Nong Chik Raja Zainal Abidin. That, too, in Lembah Pantai, where the pre-polls redelineation exercise was thought to be lifting BN's chances.

Still, hope dies hard. The former editor of opposition PKR's Suara Keadilan newspaper, Datuk Seri Dzulkarnain Taib, now a BN supporter, told The Straits Times that he was staying put at the headquarters because he remained confident that BN would somehow get a new mandate.

"God willing. We are brave, that is why we are here (at the headquarters). If we hadn't been doing work for the rakyat (people), we would have left the country or gone shopping abroad."

Despite the low voter turnout of 76.25 per cent in an election held on a weekday, Malaysia's opposition Pakatan Harapan was in the lead soon after the polls closed.

And Datuk Seri Najib's attempts to seize advantage did not seem to have paid dividends.

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 10, 2018, with the headline BN's big names toppled, one after another. Subscribe