Malaysia’s ruling group extends its 56-year rule

THE ruling National Front coalition has won a simple majority in Malaysia’s election, extending its 56-year rule, with two-thirds of seats confirmed.

Supporters of opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim take to the streets after polls closed. Picture:AP
Supporters of opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim take to the streets after polls closed. Picture:AP

Prime minister Najib Razak’s Barisan Nasional coalition had passed the threshold of 112 seats in the 222-seat parliament, the Election Commission said last night.

Defeated opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim accused the party of widespread fraud before and during the polls.

More than ten million Malaysians cast ballots in a record turnout of 80 per cent of about 13 million registered voters, the election commission said.

They were also voting to fill vacancies in 12 of Malaysia’s 13 state legislatures.

Voters had been faced with returning the ruling party, or choosing Mr Anwar’s untested three-party alliance, Pakatan Rakyat.

As the result was confirmed, Mr Najib, 59, urged all Malaysians to accept his victory.

“The results show a trend of polarisation which worries the government. If it is not addressed, it can create tension or division in the country,” he said.

“We have to show to the world that we are a mature democracy.”

Mr Ibrahim said that election irregularities cost his party many seats.

With results trickling in last night, Barisan Nasional had won 127 seats to Pakatan Rakyat’s 77.

Earlier, Mr Najib had said he was confident Malaysians would retain his coalition and even return the two-thirds parliamentary majority it lost in the 2008 polls.

Barisan Nasional, while credited with bringing economic development and political stability, has also been tainted by allegations of corruption.

It had campaigned hard to shore up its base among poorer ethnic Malay neighbourhoods and in rural areas.

But Mr Anwar refused to concede defeat, accusing the authorities of widespread abuses which he said had distorted the result of the election.

“It is an election that we consider fraudulent and the Electoral Commission has failed,” he told a news conference.

Allegations of election fraud surfaced before the election. Some of those who voted in advance said indelible ink on their hands – supposed to last for days and show they had already voted – had easily washed off.

The opposition also accused the government of funding flights for supporters to key states.

Independent pollster Merdeka Centre cited unconfirmed reports of foreign nationals being given ID documents and being allowed to vote.

And Human Rights Watch said there had been well-planned attacks against the country’s independent media.

Andrew Charles, a Malaysian businessman working in Australia, flew home to vote for the opposition, because he believes it can end corruption and mistrust between the Malay Muslim majority and ethnic Chinese, Indian and smaller minorities.

“I am really fed up. There are more abuses in the system and there is no equality among the races. After 56 years, it is time to give others a chance to change this country,” he said after voting in a Kuala Lumpur suburb.

“The government has made some mistakes, but the prime minister has made changes and I believe they [the National Front] will do their best to take care of the people’s welfare,” said Mohamed Rafiq Idris, a car business owner who waited in a long queue at a central Selangor state voting centre with his wife and son.