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Last Updated: Wednesday, 7 December 2005, 08:12 GMT
Malaysian Pas loses Kelantan seat
By Jonathan Kent
BBC News, Kuala Lumpur

Supporter of governing coalition in Kelantan - 27/11/05
The vote was so close it prompted a recount
Malaysia's governing coalition is on the verge of regaining control of the only part of the country run by the Islamic opposition party Pas.

The government narrowly won a by-election in the rural state of Kelantan, leaving Pas with a vulnerable one-seat majority.

The government's coalition took the seat by just 134 votes out of more than 15,000 cast, after a recount.

However, opposition politicians claim there was widespread electoral fraud.

Kelantan had been solidly behind the Islamist party Pas since 1990, and until last year's general election, Pas had also controlled a second neighbouring state.

There was even talk of it gaining ground to the point where it could turn Malaysia into a country governed by Islamic law.

Fraud claims

Now it is clinging to its last stronghold by one seat and commentators say defections could hand Kelantan to the government.

However the opposition is crying foul. Riot police had to be called in after opposition supporters surrounded buses they feared were carrying outsiders to vote fraudulently for the government.

They say bogus electors were even smuggled in by ambulance and through underground drainage pipes.

Malaysia's Deputy Prime Minister Najib Razak has dismissed the claims.

However, his coalition's near total control of the media and vast financial resources no doubt contributed to its narrow victory.

Pas must face the possibility that the surge in its support in the late 1990s was less about a desire for an Islamic state than revulsion at a government then widely seen as both brutal and corrupt.

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