Najib Follows Anwar in Challenging Malaysia Election Results

Prime Minister Najib Razak’s governing Barisan Nasional coalition said it plans to dispute the results of 21 seats lost in Malaysia’s election, countering similar court challenges by Anwar Ibrahim’s opposition.

Legal petitions will be filed before tomorrow’s deadline set by the Election Commission, Tengku Adnan Tengku Mansor, Barisan Nasional’s secretary general, said in an e-mailed statement today. Anwar’s People’s Alliance said yesterday it would contest the results of 25 parliamentary seats and 10 state assembly seats it lost in the May 5 vote.

Official results showed Najib’s coalition won 133 of 222 parliamentary seats, its 13th straight election win and narrowest victory since Malaysia gained independence from Britain in 1957. Anwar has since alleged electoral fraud and held protest rallies in stadiums around the nation. The opposition needs courts to reverse the results of 23 more seats than the government to change the overall election result.

“Election petitions in Malaysia are notorious for their difficulties,” James Chin, professor of political science at the Malaysian campus of Australia’s Monash University, said by e-mail. “The problem is the burden of proof. Unless the opposition can win all the petitions, and win all the by-elections, they are not going to change the overall result.”

Monitoring groups including Coalition for Clean and Fair Elections, known as Bersih, said in a joint preliminary report that they saw an “improvement in the conduct of the election” despite a number of “major issues.” These included the use of phantom voters, stained ballot papers, indelible ink that could be washed off and the arrest of seven poll monitors.

The opposition won the popular vote with 51 percent support, though gained fewer seats due to the country’s British style first-past-the-post counting system.

“We believe the 21 petitions that we are filing have a strong case and merit for the courts to decide,” Tengku Adnan said, without naming the seats or citing the grounds for the challenges. Barisan Nasional, also known as the National Front, initially planned to dispute the results of 50 seats, though cut back to save the court’s time and costs, Tengku Adnan said.

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