A Chinese tsunami swept over the country Sunday night. It ripped through all the seats that had a significant Chinese electorate and devastated Gerakan and (MCA) Malaysian Chinese Association in the peninsula and Sarawak United Peoples' Party (SUPP) in Sarawak.
The tsunami was basically about the Chinese electorate going for change. The result was that the Democratic Action Party (DAP) emerged the big winner, making new gains everywhere, including in Johor.
But it was evident that the Pakatan Rakyat slogan of “ABU, or Asalkan Bukan Umno (Anything But Umno)” had also resonated with the urban populace in general because Pakatan regained Selangor with a two-thirds majority.
The Chinese tsunami also helped to carry many of the People's Justice Party (PKR) candidates in many of the mixed seats.
However, the tsunami could not quite make it to Putrajaya.
At about 1am, a solemn-looking Najib Razak announced that Barisan Nasional had a simple majority to form the government.
At press time, Barisan had attained 133 seats, still short of the 138-seat majority won by his predecessor Abdullah Ahmad Badawi.
Najib was clearly disappointed but he spoke in a calm and steady voice as he urged everyone to accept the election result as part of the democratic process.
The Malay electorate, especially those in the rural states, continued to back Barisan. It is a small consolation to Najib that the Malays have returned to Umno in a significant way.
The Malay wall held back the Chinese tsunami and Barisan won back Kedah. It also held on to Perak, which was a subject of speculation until close to midnight.
At press time, Barisan won Perak with 31 state seats against 28 by Pakatan. But Pakatan continued to dominate in Penang with an increased majority.
PAS managed to hold on to Kelantan with a much reduced majority, which showed that Nik Aziz Nik Mat's appeal as a religious figure still commands support in the state.
As predicted, the Pan-Malaysian Islamic Party (PAS) won the least seats among the Pakatan parties and DAP is now the dominant party in Pakatan with the most number of seats. It can also lay claim to having defeated a top Umno leader, namely former Johor Mentri Besar Ghani Othman in Gelang Patah.
The Pakatan wins also mean that Johor and Sarawak are no longer the fixed-deposit states for Barisan.
The zero sum game of politics means that DAP's gain is MCA's loss because both parties contested in Chinese-majority seats. MCA won only seven parliamentary seats, far short of the 15 that it won in 2008.
MCA president Dr Chua Soi Lek tweeted late last night that the party would not be accepting any government posts.
This was in keeping with the pledge made that the party would not accept posts in the government if it did not do better this time.
A big question mark hangs over the future of MCA as well as Gerakan and SUPP and they will have to do much soul-searching after this.
The Chinese rejection of Barisan is a big blow to Najib, who went out of his way to persuade them to come along on his economic and political transformation journey.
The Chinese have rejected a moderate and inclusive leader, who has made more overtures to the Chinese than any other Prime Minister before him, and Najib and his coalition will have to reassess all this in the months to come.
There will also be soul-searching on the part of PAS, given its loss in Kedah and the defeat of several of its top leaders, including its deputy president Mohamed Sabu in Kedah and vice-president Salahuddin Ayub in Johor. Another vice-president, Husam Musa, lost in Putrajaya.
One of the most disturbing aspects of the election result is that the ruling coalition is dominated by Umno and the Malays while the opposition Pakatan is dominated by the Chinese-based DAP.
The impact of this will become clearer as the dust settles over the most closely-fought election ever.
© The Star (Malaysia). All rights reserved. Reprinted by arrangement with Asia News Network.