Opposition party supporter cheer after after Mahathir Mohamad claims the opposition party has wins the general election.
Mahathir has promised to seek a royal pardon for Anwar if they won the election and, once Anwar is free, to step aside and let him become prime minister.
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.
Making things more confusing for outsiders is the fact Mahathir himself was responsible for much of that dominance, as strongman leader of the Barisan Nasional coalition during his 22 years in power from 1981 to 2003.
He said, "Malaysia is a special country, my colleagues and I feel honoured to have led the country".
He emerged from retirement and joined the opposition after being angered by an epic corruption scandal involving Prime Minister Najib Razak. "Today. That is because there is now no government of Malaysia", Mahathir said.
Factors such as the recent redrawing of electoral boundaries, which created more ethnic Malay majority seats, and the midweek polling date expected to depress voter turnout were also supposed to favor BN.
"Well, politics they say is the art of the possible, so if he comes in to get rid of another evil, why not?"
His party postponed an evening news conference until Thursday morning and said Najib, who has ruled the Southeast Asian country for almost 10 years, would address the media at 11:00 on Thursday (11 p.m. ET, Wednesday).More news: Aftermath of Israel strikes targeting Syria army position near Kisweh
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Malaysia's outgoing Prime Minister Najib Razak speaks at a news conference following the general election in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
In his earlier spell as Prime Minister of Malaysia, Mahathir's aggressive diplomacy needled countries like Britain and the United States.
But Malaysian voters in the capital Kuala Lumpur have already begun rejoicing.
The commission's chairman, Mohamad Hashim Abdullah, denied that and urged Malaysians to be patient.
Mahathir used security laws to put his political opponents behind bars.
But at a press conference, Mahathir vowed: "We are not seeking revenge". And then it's uncertain how long he'll stay in power before the return of Anwar, his a one-time deputy to Mahathir who was sacked after a dispute over economic policies in 1998. His 1970 book, "The Malay Dilemma", argued that ethnic Malays, whom he called the nation's rightful owners, were being eclipsed economically by ethnic Chinese.
It is also a surprising exception to backsliding on democratic values in Southeast Asia, a region of more than 600 million people where governments of countries including Thailand, Cambodia and the Philippines have swung toward harsh authoritarian rule.
Pakatan Harapan, the victorious coalition, is made up of several political parties forming an alliance - People's Justice Party (PKR), Democratic Action Party (DAP), Amanah, and Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia, known as Bersatu. After his release, he was jailed again during Najib's rule on the same charges.