independent

Thursday 17 April 2014

Malaysia's coalition wins election

Malaysian prime minister Najib Razak, and his deputy Muhyiddin Yassin celebrate after winning the national generations (AP)

Malaysia's long-governing coalition has won national elections to extend its 56 years of unbroken rule, fending off the strongest opposition it has ever faced but exposing vulnerabilities in the process.

The Election Commission reported that Prime Minister Najib Razak's National Front coalition captured 127 of Malaysia's 222 parliamentary seats to win a majority on Sunday. Opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim's three-party alliance seized 77 seats, and other races were too close to call.

It was the National Front's 13th consecutive victory in general elections since independence from Britain in 1957. It faced its most unified challenge ever from an opposition that hoped to capitalize on allegations of arrogance, abuse of public funds and racial discrimination against the government.

Mr Najib urged all Malaysians to accept his coalition's victory. "We have to show to the world that we are a mature democracy," he said. "Despite the extent of the swing against us, (the National Front) did not fall," he said in a nationally televised news conference.

Mr Anwar signalled the opposition might dispute the results, saying "irregularities" cost his alliance numerous seats with narrow margins. Within minutes of the National Front's declaration of victory, thousands of Malaysian opposition supporters replaced their Facebook profile photos with black boxes in a co-ordinated sign of dismay.

The Election Commission estimated more than 10 million voted for a record turnout of 80% of 13 million registered voters. They were also voting to fill vacancies in 12 of Malaysia's 13 state legislatures.

Though it retained power, the National Front is weaker than it was at its peak in 2004, when it won 90% of Parliament's seats, and about the same as it was a month before the vote, when it held 135 seats. Its hopes were dashed of regaining the two-thirds legislative majority that it held for years but lost in 2008.

Three well-known Cabinet ministers and at least one state chief minister were likely to lose their parliamentary seats. The Malaysian Chinese Association, the second-biggest party in the ruling coalition, saw many of its candidates defeated as Malaysia's ethnic Chinese minority community continued to abandon the National Front.

Among the major differences between the National Front and Mr Anwar's alliance are coalition affirmative-action policies that benefit the majority but often poor Malay population. Malay leaders in the National Front say those policies are still needed to help poorer Malays, but opposition critics say they have been abused to benefit mainly well-connected Malays, and that all underprivileged Malaysians should get help regardless of race.

Others saw the National Front as the path of stability.

Press Association

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