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Malaysia's opposition make strong gains: unofficial tallies

KUALA LUMPUR] Malaysia's opposition alliance led by veteran ex-leader Mahathir Mohamad was making gains in Wednesday's hard-fought election against the long-ruling coalition, according to unofficial tallies.

The ruling Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition had won 34 parliamentary seats, while opposition alliance Pact of Hope was on 40, according to a count on the website of the pro-government Star newspaper.

The opposition gained several new seats in Sarawak state, a traditional BN stronghold, according to state-run Bernama news agency.

Some key figures in the coalition had fallen, with the heads of the ethnic Chinese and ethnic Indian parties having lost their seats, according to unofficial counts on Bernama.

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Official results on the Election Commission website showed BN with 20 seats, with two parties in the opposition alliance - People's Justice Party and the Democratic Action Party - on six seats each.

There are 222 seats in parliament, and 112 are needed for victory at the election with a simple majority. BN currently has 133.

The election race has been one of the most closely contested in Malaysia's history, with Dr Mahathir, 92, coming out of retirement to take on his former protege Mr Najib, who has been embroiled in a massive corruption scandal.

AFP