BN wins but with smaller majority
PM Najib expresses concern that the poll results show a 'trend of polarisation'
MALAYSIA'S ruling Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition was returned to power for a 13th term yesterday after a hard-fought campaign, with results for 13 seats not yet declared at press time.
Victory for the BN came at 12.50am, when the Election Commission announced it had won 112 parliamentary seats out of 222 for a simple majority in Parliament. At press time, the BN had won 129 seats while the opposition Pakatan Rakyat (PR) had 80 seats.
In the contest for state governments, the BN recaptured the northern state of Kedah from the opposition PR coalition. But it failed to unseat the opposition state governments in Penang, Selangor and Kelantan.
The ruling coalition suffered setbacks too, the biggest of which occurred in its southern bastion of Johor, which saw the opposition breaking through with an unprecedented level of support.
In what was dubbed the battle of the titans, Democratic Action Party (DAP) veteran Lim Kit Siang defeated long-time Johor Menteri Besar Abdul Ghani Othman in the closely watched parliamentary seat of Gelang Patah.
The opposition's big winner was the Chinese-based DAP, a member of the PR alliance that includes opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim's Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) and Parti Islam SeMalaysia (PAS).
The DAP had won 36 parliamentary seats, PKR 24 and PAS 20 at press time.
In a press conference shortly after BN's victory was declared, Prime Minister Najib Razak hoped the opposition and all Malaysians would accept the results.
"We have to show to the world that we are a mature democracy," he said. "Despite the extent of the swing against us, the Barisan Nasional did not fall."
He said if the opposition had any allegations of electoral irregularities, they would have to prove it.
But, referring to strong Chinese support for the opposition, he expressed concern and warned that this did not bode well for Malaysia.
"Overall, 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.
The BN, he said, would embark on "a national reconciliation process" to heal the racial and political divisions that have arisen in the wake of the general election.
There was a need to address the rise in extremist sentiment that has affected the country's unity, he added.
"We are still trying to absorb the results, but we will be looking forward to reject political and racial extremism, and work towards a more moderate and accommodating environment."
Datuk Seri Najib retained his Pekan parliamentary seat in Pahang with a comfortable majority, while opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim also won his Permatang Pauh seat in Penang. PAS president Hadi Awang retained his Marang seat in Terengganu.
The BN held up well in its traditional strongholds in the rural areas in Sarawak and peninsular Malaysia.
However, its two hardline pro-Malay candidates lost. Mr Zulkifli Noordin, vice-president of the right-wing Perkasa group, lost to the moderate PAS candidate Khalid Samad.
Perkasa president Ibrahim Ali also lost his Pasir Mas seat in Kelantan to Nik Abduh Nik Aziz, the son of PAS spiritual leader Nik Aziz Nik Mat.
The hotly contested election resulted in many rumours swirling as results trickled in slowly. Datuk Seri Anwar claimed victory before any official results were announced, earning a reprimand from a government spokesman.
A total of 222 parliamentary seats were at stake, along with 505 state seats from 12 of Malaysia's 13 states. Sarawak state assembly did not go to the polls as it held its election separately.
Some 80 per cent of the 13.3 million voters cast their votes, making it the highest turnout ever.