Malaysian ruling coalition retains power despite worst electoral showing

Performance may result in prime minister stepping down by year end

Malaysia’s Prime Minister Najib Razak takes his oath during a swearing-in ceremony at the palace in Kuala Lumpur

Malaysia's prime minister, Mohammad Najib Abdul Razak, has secured a simple majority for the ruling coalition, maintaining the grip on power it has held since independence from Britain in 1957.

Malaysia’s election commission said Mr Najib’s Barisan Nasional coalition won 133 of the 222 seats. However, the coalition’s worst performance in elections means he may step down by the end of the year, after his coalition extended its 56-year rule but lost key support among Chinese and Malay ethnic groups.

Mr Najib heads the government, the ruling coalition and the most powerful political party, the United Malays National Organisation (UMNO).

The opposition, led by ex-UMNO leader Anwar Ibrahim, who stood on an anti-corruption and reform ticket, won 89 seats, up from 82, in Sunday's election. Mr Najib failed to reverse the failing fortunes of the ruling coalition, which lost its two-thirds majority in parliament for the first time in 2008.


His administration has been overshadowed by corruption allegations relating to the purchase of two French submarines in 2002 and the grisly murder of a Mongolian woman in 2006, who was shot dead and blown up using C4 explosives.

Acknowledging that the elections had been divisive – Mr Anwar is claiming there was electoral fraud – Mr Najib called for reconciliation.

“For the sake of national interest, I ask all parties, especially the opposition, to accept this result with an open heart,” said Mr Najib.

Former PM Mahathir Mohamad, still a powerful figure in UMNO and in Malaysian political life, said last year that Najib must improve on the 140 seats won in 2008 or his position would be unstable.

Mr Najib is a princeling in Malaysian politics. The 59-year-old is the son of Malaysia’s second prime minister, Abdul Razak, and nephew of its third, Hussein Onn.

Clifford Coonan

Clifford Coonan

Clifford Coonan, an Irish Times contributor, spent 15 years reporting from Beijing