1990 Malaysian general election

A general election was held between Saturday, 20 October and Sunday, 21 October 1990 for members of the 8th Parliament of Malaysia. Voting took place in all 180 parliamentary constituencies of Malaysia, each electing one Member of Parliament to the Dewan Rakyat, the dominant house of Parliament.[1] State elections also took place in 351 state constituencies in 11 (out of 13, except Sabah and Sarawak) states of Malaysia on the same day.

1990 Malaysian general election

20 October 1990 (1990-10-20) - 21 October 1990 (1990-10-21)

All 180 seats to the Dewan Rakyat
91 seats needed for a majority
Turnout5,751,725 (72.3%)
  First party Second party Third party
Leader Mahathir Mohamad Lim Kit Siang Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah
Party BN DAP Semangat 46
Leader since 28 June 1981 1 October 1969 1989
Leader's seat Kubang Pasu Tanjong Gua Musang
Last election 148 seats, 57.3% 24 seats, 21.1% New Party
Seats won 127 20 8
Seat change 21 4
Popular vote 2,985,392 985,228 826,398
Percentage 53.4% 17.1% 14.8%
Swing 3.9% 4.0%

  Fourth party Fifth party
Leader Fadzil Noor Joseph Pairin Kitingan
Leader since 1989 5 March 1985
Leader's seat No seat Keningau
Last election 1 seat, 15.5% 10 seats (part of Barisan Nasional)
Seats won 7 14
Seat change 6 4
Popular vote 391,813 128,260
Percentage 7.0% 2.3%
Swing 9.5%

Prime Minister before election

Mahathir Mohamad

Prime Minister-designate

Mahathir Mohamad

The result was a victory for the Barisan Nasional (BN) at the federal level and 10 of the 11 state elections. The opposition alliance Angkatan Perpaduan Ummah (APU) won a landslide victory over BN in the state of Kelantan, winning all 39 state assembly seats. Voter turnout was 72.3%.


The elections marked the first after United Malays National Organisation (UMNO) party split and the subsequent constitutional crisis in 1988. The reconstituted UMNO Baru (New UMNO), led by incumbent Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, and the newly formed Parti Melayu Semangat 46 (S46), led by Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah, contested for the first time in the elections.

It also marked the first time in country general election history when a credible, multi-ethnic coalition have been formed the challenge the dominance of Barisan Nasional. This also lead the country political scene from a dominant party system into two party system.[2] The Muslim opposition parties, Pan-Malaysian Islamic Party (PAS), Semangat 46, Barisan Jemaah Islamiah Se-Malaysia (BERJASA) and Parti Hizbul Muslimin Malaysia (HAMIM) teamed up to form the Angkatan Perpaduan Ummah (APU). On the other hand, Semangat 46, Democratic Action Party (DAP) and Parti Bersatu Sabah (PBS), which withdrew from the Barisan Nasional (BN) at the eleventh hour of the general election, teamed up as Gagasan Rakyat. However, these two opposition alliances cooperated in the election but not openly due to the sensitivity of the secular DAP and the Islamic PAS working together.


Dewan Rakyat

At the federal level, the BN coalition under the leadership of incumbent Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad won 127 of the 180 parliament seats to form the federal government.

 Summary of the 20 – 21 October 1990 Malaysian Dewan Rakyat election results
Party Vote Seats
Votes % Won % +/–
National Front[lower-alpha 1]BN2,985,39253.3812770.56-21
United Malays National OrganisationUMNO7139.44-12
Malaysian Chinese AssociationMCA1810.00+1
United Traditional Bumiputera PartyPBB101,243105.56+2
Malaysian Indian CongressMIC63.330
United Sabah National OrganisationUSNO63.33+1
Malaysian People's Movement PartyGerakan52.780
Sarawak Native People's PartyPBDS22,59042.22-1
Sarawak United People's PartySUPP102,68742.220
Sarawak National PartySNAP35,75431.67-1
People's Progressive PartyPPP00.000
Parties in the informal coalition, Muslims Unity MovementAPU1,218,21121.78158.33New
Parties in the informal coalition, People's ConceptGR1,113,48819.913418.89New
Democratic Action Party[lower-alpha 2]DAP985,22817.612011.11-4
Semangat 46[lower-alpha 3]S46826,39814.7784.44New
Pan-Malaysian Islamic Party[lower-alpha 3]PAS391,8137.0173.89+6
United Sabah Party[lower-alpha 2]PBS128,2602.29147.78+4
Malaysian People's PartyPRM00.000
People's Justice FrontAKAR00.00New
Sarawak Malaysian People's AssociationPERMAS27,61800.00New
Sarawak United Labour PartyPLUS16200.000
Independents and other parties276,1364.9442.220
Valid votes5,593,227
Invalid/blank votes158,498
Total (turnout: 72.3%)5,751,725100.00180100.00+3
Did not vote2,248,275
Registered voters8,000,000
Voting age population (aged 21 years and above)8,882,000
Malaysian population17,764,000
Source: Nohlen et al.
  1. Contested using dacing election symbol on the ballot papers.
  2. Parties in the informal coalition, People's Concept (Gagasan Rakyat). Contested using separate election symbol on the ballot papers.
  3. Parties in the informal coalition, Muslims Unity Movement (Angkatan Perpaduan Ummah). Contested using separate election symbol on the ballot papers.

Results by state

State Assemblies

At the state level, the BN won 10 out of the 11 state elections. The APU won all 39 state seats in Kelantan to form the state government, with 24 seats going to PAS and 15 for Semangat 46.[3]


  1. Dieter Nohlen, Florian Grotz & Christof Hartmann (2001) Elections in Asia: A data handbook, Volume II, p152 ISBN 0-19-924959-8
  2. Khong, (1991) Malaysia's General Election 1990: Continuity, Change, and Ethnic Politics, p1 ISBN 981-3035-77-3
  3. Francis Kok-Wah Loh; Francis Loh Kok Wah; Boo Teik Khoo; Khoo Boo Teik (2002). Democracy in Malaysia: Discourses and Practices. Routledge. p. 95. ISBN 0-7007-1161-9.
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