Malaysia Elections: Everything You Need to Know About a Political Earthquake


The events of recent days in Malaysia have been dizzying.

A former prime minister, Mahathir Mohamad, 92, returned to power last week after a stunning upset vote, defeating not just his former protégé, but the very party he helped create.

Motivated by a desire to oust Prime Minister Najib Razak, the scion of a political family who was embroiled in a multibillion-dollar corruption scandal, Malaysians voted in record numbers.

Now, Mr. Mahathir must stitch together a governing coalition that includes followers of Anwar Ibrahim, his onetime nemesis, who was released from prison after serving five years on charges that were widely seen as politically motivated.

Here is our guide to the people and events that led to Mr. Mahathir’s return to power and Mr. Najib’s fall from grace.

Just a few months ago, the political machine led by Najib Razak, the gilded prime minister of Malaysia, appeared so indestructible that a multibillion-dollar corruption scandal seemed unlikely to derail it. The end came so quickly, so completely, that even his opponents were shocked. — Hannah Beech, Richard C. Paddock and Alexandra Stevenson, May 15

In a historic election upset in a country that has been governed by just one coalition for decades, a Malaysian opposition bloc led by the 92-year-old former prime minister Mahathir Mohamad swept to a majority in national parliamentary elections. — Richard C. Paddock, May 9

Mahathir Mohamad, who led Malaysia for decades with dagger-sharp rhetoric and increasingly autocratic ways, one of the world’s most durable political survivors, has engaged in yet another act of reinvention. This time, he is allying himself with opposition figures he once repressed in the name of beating his own former protégé, Najib Razak, whom he helped make prime minister in 2009. — Richard C. Paddock, Feb. 17

Mahathir Mohamad and Anwar Ibrahim, after years of bad blood and the imprisonment of Mr. Anwar, have retaken their places at the top of Malaysian politics: Mr. Mahathir is prime minister once again, at age 92, and Mr. Anwar, newly pardoned by the country’s king on Wednesday, is waiting to inherit the leadership. — Austin Ramzy, May 15

President Trump did not single out Mr. Najib’s patronage of his hotel two blocks from the White House, but he could have: the Malaysian leader was spotted entering and exiting the Trump International Hotel, with his entourage, on Monday and Tuesday. — Mark Landler, Sept. 12

A $30.6 million penthouse at the Time Warner Center in Manhattan, overlooking Central Park. A $39 million mansion in the Los Angeles hills. A $17.5 million tear-down in Beverly Hills. Each was bought anonymously, the source of its financing hidden.

The Department of Justice charged that these lavish properties were among the more than $1 billion in United States assets bought with money stolen from Malaysia’s sovereign wealth fund by people close to that country’s embattled prime minister, Najib Razak. — Louise Story, July 20, 2016

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