Thousands of Malaysian protesters demonstrated on Saturday against scandal-hit Prime Minister Najib Razak as political tensions rise ahead of an election expected within months. Led by opposition politicians from the Pakatan Harapan coalition, or Pact of Hope, the carnival-like rally was the latest outburst of anger linked to claims that huge amounts of money were looted from a state investment fund set up by Najib.
Both Najib and the fund, 1MDB, deny wrongdoing. Speaking in a field in the city of Petaling Jaya, some 10km from Kuala Lumpur, the country’s former prime minister Mahathir Mohamad said it was time for Malaysians to vote out Najib’s Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition.
“We can bring down Najib only by (voting) Pakatan Harapan,” he said in a speech, addressing a crowd clad in mostly red T-shirts, a color similarly worn by members of Mahathir’s Bersatu party.
Protesters were heard chanting “Reformasi” (“Reformation”), “Long live the people”, and “Down with BN” during the eight-hour-long rally, which organisers claimed some 25,000 people showed up for.
Police did not immediately respond to requests for an estimate on the figure, but an AFP reporter said there appeared to be at most several thousand.
Malaysia’s opposition is set to contest Malaysia’s elections –which are due in 2018– against Najib’s powerful Barisan Nasional coalition, which has never lost an election.
Mahathir recently stepped out of retirement in politics to form his own party, and joined the opposition alliance in a bid to unseat Najib at the elections.