5 May 2013

Polls close in tightly contested Malaysia election

10:10 pm on 5 May 2013

Voting has ended in Malaysia in what is widely expected to be the most closely contested general election in the country's history.

PM Najib Razak's Barisan Nasional (National Front) coalition is up against Pakatan Rakyat, a three-party alliance headed by Anwar Ibrahim.

Voters were faced with returning the ruling party, in power for 56 years, or choosing an untested opposition.

The BBC reports that ahead of the polls, allegations of various forms of fraud emerged.

Analysts say that for the first time since Malaysia's independence in 1957, there is a real possibility that the opposition may be able to unseat the ruling party. Opinion polls suggest support for the two sides is evenly matched.

Nearly eight million people cast ballots in the first four hours of voting, comprising almost 60% of the 13.3 million registered voters, the election commission said.

Barisan Nasional, while credited with bringing economic development and political stability, has also been tainted by allegations of corruption.

But it remains to be seen whether Mr Anwar's coalition, comprising parties of different ethnicities and religions, can persuade voters to choose an alternative government.

Mr Najib, 59, said he was confident that Malaysians would retain his coalition and even return the two-thirds parliamentary majority Barisan Nasional lost in the 2008 polls.