Malaysia’s long-ruling National Front, headed by Prime Minister Najib Razak, appeared to fend off a fierce challenge and win re-election on Sunday. But the country’s opposition leader said the vote was tainted by widespread irregularities and did not reflect the popular will. He refused to concede. Anwar Ibrahim, whose support base is largely Internet-savvy younger voters, had promised the election would mark a “Malaysian Spring” in the country. Now Malaysians wait to see whether the veteran opposition leader will try and challenge the result in the courts or streets.
“It is an election that we consider fraudulent and the Election Commission has failed,” Mr. Anwar told reporters in Kuala Lumpur, the capital city. Over the past two years, Malaysia has seen a series of unprecedented street protests that saw tens of thousands march to demand for a free and fair election.
The National Front coalition has, under different names, ruled Malaysia since independence 56 years ago, winning all 13 elections the country has held. According to the Election Commission, the National Front won at least 124 of 222 parliamentary seats, enough to form a majority government. The opposition People’s Alliance had won 73 seats as of Sunday night, with the other races too close to call.
A record 80 per cent of eligible voters cast ballots, reflecting how high the stakes were in what was seen as the country’s first election where the result was in some question.
“I hope the opposition accepts the result with an open heart and will allow the democratic process to continue,” Mr. Najib told a press conference after his party’s win was announced. “The results show a trend of polarization which worries the government. If it is not addressed, it can create tension or division in the country.”
The 59-year-old Mr. Najib has been prime minister since 2009 but was running in his first election as party leader. He campaigned on his party’s reputation for stable governance and sound economic management, including 5.6 per cent growth in 2012.