Tainted election victory for Malaysian premier

MALAYSIA'S LONG-SERVING prime minister, Mahathir Mohamed, won a decisive election victory last night, even though the newly united opposition doubled its number of seats.

An election monitoring group meanwhile complained that ballot papers had been interfered with.

With results declared early this morning in all 193 constituencies, the ruling National Front coalition had won 149 parliamentary seats, well above the two-thirds majority which it needs to pass amendments to the constitution. But the four-party Alternative Front, led from prison by Mr Mahathir's former friend and deputy, Anwar Ibrahim, returned 43 MPs, and in regional elections, Mr Mahathir's government lost control of a second state to an Islamic fundamentalist party.

Mr Anwar is in prison on charges of corruption and sodomy, but last night his wife, Wan Azizah Wan Ismail, won his old seat as the candidate of the newly formed Justice Party. "This is a victory of the people," she said early this morning. "It shows that people dared to choose change."

But Mr Mahathir, speaking at a press conference, said: "As far as we are concerned, they gave us more than a two-thirds majority. And that's clear proof that they want us to carry on with our job. Elections are not meant for quarrelling with people. We would be very glad to work with the opposition parties outside of politics."

The biggest upset came in the eastern state of Terengganu, a centre of the gas and oil industries, where the Malaysian Pan-Islamic Party (Pas) gained control of the state legislature, as well as retaining the northern state of Kelantan. But among a number of blows suffered by the opposition, the country's most experienced and respected opposition leader, Lim Kit Siang of the Chinese Democratic Action Party, lost his parliamentary seat, after one of the bitterest and most acrimonious election campaigns in Malaysian history.

Yesterday, an independent election monitoring group said that it had received complaints of irregularities, including reports that portions of some ballot papers had been impregnated with wax, making it impossible for voters to mark the boxes of opposition parties. "Our phones have not stopped ringing," said Kamar Ainiah Kamaruzaman of Pementau.

Little more than a year ago, tens of thousands of people took to the streets of Kuala Lumpur calling for the resignation of Mr Mahathir, after the sensational sacking and arrest of Mr Anwar, Mr Mahathir's deputy, finance minister and designated successor. Mr Anwar's appearance in court, bruised and beaten by the chief of police, outraged many Malaysians, among them natural supporters of the government.

But yesterday the long record of economic development and the continued stability promised by the authoritarian Mr Mahathir won out over the greater freedom and reform demanded by the opposition. "I wasn't interested in politics, but the Anwar business made me think a lot more about it," said Johan bin Mohamed Saleh, a 40-year old factory manager, at a polling station in the city of Shah Alam. "But you can't deny where this country's going - the new airports, dams, highways."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Front-End UI Application Developer

£30000 - £40000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Front-End UI Application ...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Account Executive

£18000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Service Engineers - Doncaster / Hull

£27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Domestic Service Only Engineers are requ...

Recruitment Genius: Employability / Recruitment Adviser

£23600 - £27500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The Employability Service withi...

Day In a Page

Where the spooks get their coffee fix: The busiest Starbucks in the US is also the most secretive

The secret CIA Starbucks

The coffee shop is deep inside the agency's forested Virginia compound
Revealed: How the Establishment closed ranks over fallout from Loch Ness Monster 'sighting'

How the Establishment closed ranks over fallout from Nessie 'sighting'

The Natural History Museum's chief scientist was dismissed for declaring he had found the monster
One million Britons using food banks, according to Trussell Trust

One million Britons using food banks

Huge surge in number of families dependent on emergency food aid
Excavation at Italian cafe to fix rising damp unearths 2,500 years of history in 3,000 amazing objects

2,500 years of history in 3,000 amazing objects

Excavation at Italian cafe to fix rising damp unearths trove
The Hubble Space Telescope's amazing journey, 25 years on

The Hubble Space Telescope's amazing journey 25 years on

The space telescope was seen as a costly flop on its first release
Did Conservative peer Lord Ashcroft quit the House of Lords to become a non-dom?

Did Lord Ashcroft quit the House of Lords to become a non-dom?

A document seen by The Independent shows that a week after he resigned from the Lords he sold 350,000 shares in an American company - netting him $11.2m
Apple's ethnic emojis are being used to make racist comments on social media

Ethnic emojis used in racist comments

They were intended to promote harmony, but have achieved the opposite
Sir Kenneth Branagh interview: 'My bones are in the theatre'

Sir Kenneth Branagh: 'My bones are in the theatre'

The actor-turned-director’s new company will stage five plays from October – including works by Shakespeare and John Osborne
The sloth is now the face (and furry body) of three big advertising campaigns

The sloth is the face of three ad campaigns

Priya Elan discovers why slow and sleepy wins the race for brands in need of a new image
How to run a restaurant: As two newbies discovered, there's more to it than good food

How to run a restaurant

As two newbies discovered, there's more to it than good food
Record Store Day: Remembering an era when buying and selling discs were labours of love

Record Store Day: The vinyl countdown

For Lois Pryce, working in a record shop was a dream job - until the bean counters ruined it
Usher, Mary J Blige and Will.i.am to give free concert as part of the Global Poverty Project

Mary J Blige and Will.i.am to give free concert

The concert in Washington is part of the Global Citizen project, which aims to encourage young people to donate to charity
10 best tote bags

Accessorise with a stylish shopper this spring: 10 best tote bags

We find carriers with room for all your essentials (and a bit more)
Paul Scholes column: I hear Manchester City are closing on Pep Guardiola for next summer – but I'd also love to see Jürgen Klopp managing in England

Paul Scholes column

I hear Manchester City are closing on Pep Guardiola for next summer – but I'd also love to see Jürgen Klopp managing in England
Jessica Ennis-Hill: 'I just want to give it my best shot'

Jessica Ennis-Hill: 'I just want to give it my best shot'

The heptathlete has gone from the toast of the nation to being a sleep-deprived mum - but she’s ready to compete again. She just doesn't know how well she'll do...