Setback for Najib

(REUTERS) – A MALAYSIAN minister has conceded defeat for the ruling National Front coalition in two of the three constituencies where special elections have been held.

The results from Tuesday's elections are a setback for new Prime Minister Najib Razak as the elections were seen as a referendum on his leadership.

International Trade Minister Muhyiddin Yassin says the National Front lost elections in the Bukit Gantang parliamentary seat in the northern Perak state. He says the Front also lost in Bukit Selambau where a seat was contested for the Kedah state assembly.

The Front won an assembly seat in Sarawak state.

Mr Muhyiddin says 'the feel-good factor' from Mr Najib coming to power on Friday is still 'too new and has not sunk in.'

Facing the worst recession since the Asian financial crisis of a decade ago, voters turned out in large numbers in the poor northwestern state of Perak in a parliamentary election triggered by the death of the MP.

The Pan-Malaysian Islamist Party (PAS) said the result in which their majority for that seat rose to 2,789 votes from 1,566 votes was a judgement by the people of a putsch staged by Prime Minister Najib Razak this year to seize power in the state.

'People are just sick with the political turmoil in Perak and this is an indictment on them (the government),' PAS Deputy President Nasharudin Mat Isa said after the results.

The results were in line with expectations and showed that Mr Najib and the United Malays National Organisation (UMNO) that is the lead party in the ruling coalition have failed to reconnect with voters after a poor showing in elections a year ago.

'The results show that UMNO can no longer hope to be successful campaigning mainly on ethnic nationalist issues on the back of an economic crisis and governance issues,' said Ibrahim Suffian, of the Merdeka Center, an independent pollster.

Overall, nearly 100,000 voters were eligible to cast ballots on Tuesday. Turnout in Perak was 75 per cent, more than that in the 2008 general election when the government stumbled to its biggest ever election losses, ceding control of five states and losing its once iron-clad two-thirds parliamentary majority.