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KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 18 – Malaysia’s opposition today hailed a victory in a parliamentary by-election, declaring it showed strengthening support for its campaign to topple the government nearly a year after landmark national polls. Opposition leaders and analysts also said Saturday’s win by Pas in Kuala Terengganu was a vote of no-confidence for Deputy Prime Minister Najib Razak, just three months before he takes over as premier.

The Islamic party, which is part of a three-member opposition alliance led by former Deputy Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim, defeated the National Front coalition with a significant majority of 2,631 votes, the Election Commission said. This reversed the government’s 628 majority in general elections last March. The seat fell vacant after the incumbent, a National Front member, died in November.

Anwar said the victory, which increased opposition seats in Parliament to 83, showed momentum for political reform had gained strength, after his People’s Alliance won a third of parliamentary seats and control of five states in national polls last year. “The victory is proof that the people are still thirsty for change,” he said in a statement.

The by-election results will not change the National Front’s control of Parliament, where it still has a comfortable majority. But Saturday’s defeat nevertheless dealt a blow to the government, which had hoped to recapture support after its losses last year. It was the second consecutive electoral loss after Anwar won a by-election in September to return to Parliament as opposition leader after a 10-year enforced absence. “The results are disastrous for Najib. This was a battle between an incoming prime minister, Najib, and a wannabe prime minister, Anwar. Najib will be much weaker when he takes power,” said James Chin, a political science professor at Monash University in Malaysia.


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