Malaysia's ruling party wins knife-edge general election

Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak's ruling party won the country's hard fought general election Sunday, with the opposition coalition vowing to contest the results.

The ruling 13-party National Front coalition secured 133 of Malaysia's 222 parliamentary seats, extending its 56-year rule for another five years. The opposition obtained 89 seats in parliament, up from 82 in the 2008 election.

State-level election results showed that the National Front won back the northern Kedah and Perak states, which it had lost to the opposition in the 2008 election. The ruling coalition now controls 10 of Malaysia's 13 states. The states of Penang, Kelantan and Selangor remain under the control of the opposition.

While Prime Minister Najib Razak called on all parties to accept the outcome of the election, opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim refused to concede defeat, claiming massive vote rigging.

"It is unfair to expect us to form a decision based primarily on the results of an election that is considered fraudulent. We are not accepting it," Anwar said at a press conference early Monday morning.

Prime Minister Razak praised, however, the electoral process as true, fair and transparent, saying, "It's been a long and hard-fought election. Now it's time to move toward national reconciliation." He asked Malaysians to accept the poll outcome and "show the world we are a mature democracy."

Razak had called on voters to give him a chance to continue the reforms he has initiated, saying, "It is not that we are demanding victory, but we have a better track record and a better agenda for Malaysia."

He also highlighted his coalition's "55-year achievement in turning this once agrarian country into a prosperous, modern industrialized nation".

Sunday's election result was, however, the worst in the history of the National Front, with the prime minister blaming it on the so called "Chinese tsunami," the abandonment by the Chinese community.

The minority ethnic Chinese, disgruntled with the government's pro-Malay policies and rampant corruption, remained solidly with the opposition. Ethnic Chinese make up nearly one-third of Malaysia's 29 million people.

The National Front had warned before Sunday's election that an opposition win means the Chinese would lord over the ethnic Malays and scrap their privileges. The ruling coalition had also been spreading the message that there could be a repeat of the 1969 race riots, should the opposition win.

The opposition slammed such fear-mongering. They argued

that the National Front's pro-Malay policy has only enriched coalition cronies, as the party used government contracts to buy patronage and support.

The Malays have long been coddled by the government through the affirmative action policy that gives them special privileges such as easier entry into public universities, special discount for housing and access to lucrative government contracts.

Anwar's alliance pledged to do away with race-based economic policy and touted one based on needs.

David Yoong, 33, casted his vote for the first time in his life Sunday and told Kyodo News he picked Anwar's party, the People's Justice Party, "mainly because I am fed up with the corruption, the swindling of the people's money," he said, "Power really corrupts if not checked." He, like all other opposition supporters, said Anwar would offer a "cleaner" alternative.

The election watchdog, the Coalition for Free and Fair Elections, better known as Bersih, said Sunday, "The most critical elections in Malaysia's history are likely to be stolen from the people with a series of fraudulent moves on the eve of polling day," adding, "This 13th general election is set to be the dirtiest ever."

Prime Minister Razak and opposition leader Anwar conducted an acrimonious election campaign marked by dozens of acts of violence across the country. There were reports of operation centers being petrol-bombed, scuffles between supporters and various acts of vandalism in the run-up to the election.

It was the first time since 1969 that the opposition had a realistic chance of winning the election. That year, the opposition won the election for the first time, but failed to form a government due to ethnic riots between Malays and Chinese. Following the riots the National Front caretaker government declared emergency rule.