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 8 Apr 2009

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Malaysia's ruling coalition suffers by-election losses

Malaysia's new Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak on Tuesday suffered a blow just four days after he was sworn in, as his ruling party lost two of three by-elections widely seen as a referendum on his government and his reform pledges, reported Kyodo news agency.

The three-party opposition People's Alliance led by charismatic leader Anwar Ibrahim trounced Najib's 13-party National Front coalition or BN in the tensely fought polls in Perak and Kedah.

Since last year's general election, BN has lost two other by-elections. BN's only consolation was the opposition camp failed to breach its fortress in Sarawak, one of two states in the Borneo which remains the last frontier for Anwar to conquer in his aim to become the next prime minister.

Though the three by-elections will not make any difference in the current power equation, they are widely viewed as a test of people's confidence in Najib who took office last Friday vowing to implement a wide range of reforms.

"Malaysians want to change irrespective of the new prime minister. They still want a change. They are stronger in their support for the People's Alliance," Anwar told reporters in northern Perak state. In the battle for a parliamentary seat in Perak, voters threw their support for ousted state Chief Minister Mohammad Nizar Jamaluddin from the opposition Pan Islamic Party or PAS.

He beat Ismail Saffian from the United Malays National Organization with an even bigger margin of 2,789 votes. In the 2008 election, PAS won the seat by 1,566 votes. UMNO is the largest party in the BN coalition.

This is a slap to Najib who had engineered the February coup that overthrew Nizar and the opposition-led government of Perak, sparking a huge public outrage and endless legal mess as suits and counter-suits flew between BN and the ousted party.

PAS, Anwar's People's Justice Party or PKR and the Democratic Action Party which formed the People's Alliance, had won the state in the historic 2008 election but lost it to BN after several of their lawmakers jumped ship amid allegations of being bought over by the BN. "This is a very strong signal from the people that they reject corruption.




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