Polls close, counting begins

 
The queue outside SJK (Tamil) school in Bangsar, Kuala Lumpur, on Sunday May 5 2013. Polls for Malaysia's closely-fought general election closed at 5pm on Sunday, with the counting of the ballots beginning immediately. The first results will be known within two hours while the next government is likely to be announced by midnight or 1am. - ST PHOTO: CAROLINE CHIA

Polls for Malaysia's closely-fought general election closed at 5pm on Sunday, with the counting of the ballots beginning immediately.

The first results will be known within two hours while the next government is likely to be announced by midnight or 1am.

The Election Commission is expected to announce the first results for state constituencies with a small number of voters, mostly in Sabah and Perlis.

The results of the 222 Parliamentary seats will be closely watched for whether the ruling Barisan Nasional or the opposition Pakatan Rakyat gets the 112 seats needed to form government.

A total 148 seats will be required to win a two-thirds majority.

The states which will generate the most excitement are Johor where the opposition has launched a fierce attack in a bid to win more parliamentary seats to win federal power. The Borneo states of Sabah and Sarawak are also hotly contested.

"The time for voting is over. Thank you for carrying out your responsibility as a Malaysian," said Prime Minister Najib Razak in his facebook account.

Polling went smoothly but was marred with complaints by some voters that they were deprived of the vote as their names had been crossed out as having voted earlier.

There were also many allegations of foreigners being caught attempting to vote, with rumours flying wildly over social media and text messages. The allegations claimed that large numbers of foreigners were spotted in various stations around the country.

Mr Najib denied that his BN has brought in "phantom voters" to boost its support in the crucial polls on Sunday that remains very closely contested.

"The allegations of friendly parties to BN bringing in foreign workers to vote is totally untrue. We are committed to a fair election," he said in his Twitter account on Sunday.

All the 222 parliamentary seats and 505 state seats are being contested this time, unlike in the 2008 polls. A record total 1,900 candidates are contesting.

If the majority at any seat is below four per cent of the total votes cast, a candidate's polling agent can request a recount. Only one recount is allowed.

carolynh@sph.com.sg