Malaysian state elections have ended in a return to the political status quo, with Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim's government and the opposition both retaining control of three states each as widely expected.
The Election Commission announced that Anwar's multi-coalition government triumphed in Selangor and Penang, two of the country’s richest states, as well as Negeri Sembilan.
It said the opposition Perikatan Nasional (PN) bloc, which includes the conservative Pan-Malaysian Islamic Party (PAS), captured three poorer Malay heartland states of Kedah, Kelantan and Terengganu in the north.
Analysts said the outcome lifted some of the pressure on Anwar and would boost the stability of his nascent government.
It will still be challenging as the PN bloc, led by former Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin, made inroads in the three government-held states and a nearly clean sweep of seats in its three states.
Of the 245 seats contested, PN swept 146 compared to 99 by Anwar's government.
Anwar said his federal government remained stable and strong and urged all sides to accept the people's decision.
“This is the time for everyone, for all the parties, whether they win or lose, to work together to protect national peace, raise the dignity of the country and concentrate on developing Malaysia,” he told a news conference.
But Muhyiddin said the people had rejected Anwar's unity government as his opposition bloc won 60% of the total assembly seats.
“It is a clear sign that the people want change,” he said, adding that Anwar must take moral responsibility and resign.
The polls are widely viewed as an early referendum both on Anwar’s leadership and the strength of the opposition after a divisive general election in November.