Malaysia’s ruling party retains power, but sees major losses

March 9th, 2008 - 4:14 am ICT by admin  

Kuala Lumpur, March 9 (DPA) Malaysia’s ruling coalition retained control of the government in Saturday’s general elections, but suffered major blows as the opposition managed to wrest control of three states. The National Front coalition, led by Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, managed to secure a simple majority of 112 parliamentary seats out of the 222 seats contested in the polls. But it was the first time since 1969 that the opposition managed to deny the ruling coalition a two-thirds majority.

The coalition suffered one of its biggest defeats after the opposition managed to win control of the northern Penang state. For the first time, the coalition also lost control of the central Selangor state and northern state of Kedah, bringing to four the number of the nation’s 13 states under opposition control.

As of early Sunday, the opposition also had a three-seat lead in Perak state with 15 seats left to be counted.

Abdullah also failed once again to win back the northeastern state of Kelantan from the opposition Parti Islam SeMalaysia (PAS), which has ruled there since 1990.

The coalition also suffered embarrassing losses in many of its state and parliamentary seats, signalling increasing voter disenchantment towards the government.

“Even though the National Front has managed to retain its majority, this is an crushing blow to Abdullah and to party leaders of the coalition,” one political observer said.

“This kind of victory for the opposition, which is so much more disadvantaged in an electoral system that favours the government, is really a slap in the face for Abdullah.”

More than 70 percent of 10.92 million registered voters cast their votes in Saturday’s polls.

While most of the polling proceeded smoothly, police clashed with a small group of opposition supporters in the northeastern state of Terengganu.

Officers fired tear gas and detained 22 PAS supporters protesting what they claimed were several bus-loads of “phantom voters” brought in to vote for the ruling coalition.

Following the release of the election results, opposition leaders called on their supporters not to hold victory parades or even to celebrate for fears of inciting riots.

Police have also warned that political party supporters who are found celebrating their victories will be detained for disturbing the peace.

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