Malaysia’s ruling coalition has won a simple parliamentary majority, according to the country’s Election Commission, after a tough fight with an opposition alliance that hoped to hand the government its first-ever loss.
The 13-party Barisan Nasional (National Front), led by Prime Minister Najib Razak, had secured 112 of the 222 parliamentary seats, the threshold required to form a government, the Election Commission said early on Monday.
It was the National Front’s 13th consecutive victory in general elections since independence from Britain in 1957, extending its 56 years of unbroken rule.
Opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim’s three-party Pakatan Rakyat alliance seized 57 seats. Sunday’s other races were too close to call.
Barisan National had faced its most unified challenge ever from an opposition that hoped to capitalise on allegations of arrogance, abuse of public funds and racial discrimination against the government.
The Election Commission estimated that more than 10 million voted for a record turnout of 80 percent of 13 million registered voters.
Voting took place at 8,200 polling centres across the country on Sunday after a last-minute campaign frenzy that lasted until midnight.
“This election is crucial for the country,” Shanaz Zain, a 35-year-old voter, told Al Jazeera after casting his vote in Kuala Lumpur.
“This is the first time there has been such a narrow margin. It’s the first time that citizens are being heard by both sides. We are moving towards democracy.”
Meanwhile, police have banned all victory parades and street demonstrations after the declaration of the results to forestall clashes.
The opposition has already warned of a disputed result and has accused Barisan Nasional of flying in tens of thousands of foreigners from South Asia to tip the balance in hard-fought constituencies.
The government said it had arranged some incoming flights, but insisted they were part of a voter-turnout drive.
Barisan Nasional banked on robust economic growth, averaging about five percent annually, and fears of instability brought on by a possible transfer of power. It painted the opposition as fractious and pro-Islamic.
Pakatan Rakyat, by contrast, campaigned against corruption and pledged to roll back a decades old quota system that favours ethnic Malays in schools, business contracts and civil service jobs.
“We’ve waited five years for this moment. I don’t mind waiting a little longer,” a voter who identified himself as Gary R told Al Jazeera.
“The old world has to give way to the new.” [AlJazeera]