Kuala Lumpur. Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak's long-ruling coalition clung to a slight lead in vote counting from Wednesday's (09/05) election, a cliff-hanger contest against a resurgent opposition alliance led by 92-year-old former leader Mahathir Mohamad.
However, Najib's Barisan Nasional (BN) lost seats in key states that have traditionally been strongholds, raising the prospect that it could be voted out of power.
Five hours after polling stations closed, BN had won 24 of parliament's 222 seats and the opposition Pakatan Harapan (Alliance of Hope) had 17, according to unofficial results reported by state news agency Bernama.
BN faced a far greater challenge in this election than ever before amid public anger over the cost of living and a multi-billion-dollar scandal that has dogged Najib since 2015.
An election-eve opinion poll suggested that support for BN was slipping and Mahathir's alliance would land the most votes in peninsular Malaysia, home to 80 percent of the population in this Southeast Asian nation.
However, under Malaysia's electoral system, the party or alliance with the majority of parliament seats wins, and going into the poll most experts believed that was within the prime minister's reach.
The opposition claimed the contest would be skewed by a revision of electoral boundaries and a decision to hold the poll midweek, which it said would discourage millions from voting. The Election Commission and government dismissed the charges.
The commission said that 69 percent of the roughly 15 million registered voters had cast their vote by 0700 GMT, two hours before polls closed. Around 85 percent voted at the last election in 2013.