1978 Malaysian general election

A general election was held between Saturday, 8 July and Saturday, 22 July 1978 for members of the 5th Parliament of Malaysia.[1] Voting took place in all 154 parliamentary constituencies of Malaysia, each electing one Member of Parliament to the Dewan Rakyat, the dominant house of Parliament. State elections also took place in 276 state constituencies in 10 (out of 13, except Kelantan, Sabah and Sarawak) states of Malaysia on the same day.

1978 Malaysian general election

8 July 1978 (1978-07-08) - 22 July 1978 (1978-07-22)

All 154 seats to the Dewan Rakyat
78 seats needed for a majority
Turnout3,596,732 (75.3%)
  First party Second party Third party
Leader Hussein Onn Lim Kit Siang Asri Muda
Leader since 14 January 1976 1 October 1969 1969
Leader's seat Sri Gading Petaling No seat
Last election 135 seats, 60.7% 9 seats, 18.3% 13 seats (part of Barisan Nasional)
Seats won 131 16 5
Seat change 4 7 8
Popular vote 1,987,907 664,433 537,720
Percentage 57.2% 19.1% 15.5%
Swing 3.5% 0.8%

Prime Minister before election

Hussein Onn

Prime Minister-designate

Hussein Onn

It was Hussein Onn's first and only election since he became the country's third Prime Minister. His Barisan Nasional Party emerged victorious with 131 of the 154 seats in Parliament. Voter turnout was 75.3%.


Dewan Rakyat

As expected, Barisan Nasional comfortably maintained its majority in the Malaysian Parliament and thus, gave the Prime Minister the power to form a government with a free hand. Despite the victory, BN actually lost four seats out of 154 seats to the opposition.

The Pan-Malaysian Islamic Party (PAS) withdrew from BN in the midst of the 1977 Kelantan Emergency over disagreements with UMNO over the running of the state government of Kelantan, which PAS had controlled since the first post-independence general election in 1959. With the support of UMNO, detractors within PAS split with the party and formed the Pan-Malaysian Islamic Front (BERJASA). In the election, PAS lost the control of the state for the first time to the UMNO-BERJASA alliance within BN. Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah has been credited for UMNO's victory in Kelantan.

The opposition garnered 42.8% of total votes. In spite of that, the opposition as one won only 23 seats. Democratic Action Party won the largest slice of the pie among the opposition parties and hence, its leader Lim Kit Siang retained his position as the leader of the opposition that he had obtained four years earlier.

Candidates were returned unopposed in nine constituencies. The registered electors from these constituencies therefore did not cast ballots.

 Summary of the 8 – 22 July 1978 Malaysian Dewan Rakyat election results
Party Vote Seats
Votes % Won % +/–
National Front[lower-alpha 1]BN1,987,90757.2313185.06-4
United Malays National OrganisationUMNO7045.45+8
Malaysian Chinese AssociationMCA1711.04-2
Sabah People's United FrontBERJAYA95.84New
Sarawak National PartySNAP45,21895.840
United Traditional Bumiputera PartyPBB52,22285.190
Sarawak United People's PartySUPP64,09963.90-1
United Sabah National OrganisationUSNO53.25-8
Malaysian People's Movement PartyGerakan42.60-1
Malaysian Indian CongressMIC31.95-1
People's Progressive PartyPPP00.00-1
Democratic Action PartyDAP664,43319.131610.39+7
Pan-Malaysian Islamic PartyPAS537,72015.4853.25-8
Sarawak People's OrganisationSAPO10,1500.2910.65New
Malaysian People's Socialist PartyPSRM00.000
Other parties112,8503.2500.000
Sarawak Native People's PartyPAJAR35,00900.00New
Parti Umat SarawakUMAT3,89800.00New
Parti Negara Rakyat SarawakNEGARA86100.00New
Valid votes3,473,430
Invalid/blank votes123,302
Total (turnout: 75.3%)3,596,732100.00154100.000
Did not vote1,462,957
Registered voters5,059,689
Voting age population (aged 21 years and above)6,067,230
Malaysian population12,303,000
Source: Nohlen et al. ,
  1. Contested using dacing election symbol on the ballot papers.

Results by state

State Assemblies


  1. Dieter Nohlen, Florian Grotz & Christof Hartmann (2001) Elections in Asia: A data handbook, Volume II, p152 ISBN 0-19-924959-8
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