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Malaysia gov't wins polls, boosting reform agenda

Malaysia gov't wins polls, boosting reform agenda
Malaysia gov't wins polls, boosting reform agenda

Malaysia's ruling coalition won a special legislative election Sunday, giving a boost to Prime Minister Najib Razak's reform agenda that aims to win back flagging public support a year after he took office.
Najib has been struggling to revive the popularity of his National Front coalition, which has ruled the country for more than five decades but suffered an unprecedented setback in the last general election two years ago.
To woo back voters, Najib has introduced economic reforms to address claims of discrimination from the country's ethnic Chinese and Indian minorities, while trying not to alienate his core voters, Muslim Malays, who make up 60 percent of the country's 28 million people.
The National Front candidate, P. Kamalanathan from the ethnic Indian party in the coalition, secured 1,725 votes more than his opponent to win back the Parliament seat in the rural Hulu Selangor constituency in central Selangor state. The seat fell vacant when the incumbent, a member of the opposition, died last month.
Najib said the victory was a "good beginning" for his reform agenda.
"It was a hard-fought win for us," he told reporters. "I believe that we are on the right track.... But now we must make sure we produce the results."
More than 75 percent of 64,500 eligible voters turned up to cast their ballots. The seat fell vacant when the incumbent, from the opposition, died last month.
The election is also being watched as an indicator for the next general polls, which aren't due until 2013 but could be called as early as next year if Najib feels he has a solid platform.
In 2008 general elections, the National Front lost more than a third of parliamentary seats and five of 13 states to the opposition amid economic worries and complaints of discrimination. It was the ruling coalition's worst performance ever since the country's independence in 1957.
But recently the opposition has had trouble retaining its gains. Opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim is standing trial on charges he sodomized a former aide _ which could see him jailed for up to 20 years if found guilty. He has denied the charges as politically motivated. His opposition coalition is also beset by infighting and defections.
For Hulu Selangor, Anwar picked a former law minister _ who has been tipped as his possible successor _ to run against the National Front. He has alleged the government's all-encompassing election machine kept him from winning.
Opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim has nominated a former law minister _ who has been tipped as a possible successor to Anwar to head the movement _