The Star Online|Malaysia 13th General Election

1955 - New chapter for Malaya

A three-party coalition called the Alliance - comprising the United Malay National Organisation (Umno), the Malayan Chinese Association (MCA) and the Malayan Indian Congress (MIC) - swept 51 of 52 parliamentary seats in the country's first elections.

This elections cemented the coalition, who agreed for Umno president Tunku Abdul Rahman to be appointed Chief Minister of Malaya. Tunku would lead the Alliance to victory in the next three general elections.

The 1955 elections marked the move towards Independence. The British relinquished their power and, in 1957, the Federation of Malaya gained complete independence from Britain.

The elections saw the rejection of opposition parties such as Party Negara led by former Umno president Datuk Onn Jaafar, the socialist-based Labour Party, People's Progressive Party and other minor groups.

1959 – Birth of an elected nation

This general election was the first to be held under the supervision of the Election Commission formed in 1958.

Tunku Abdul Rahman wanted to concentrate on the federal and state elections and so relinquished his post as Prime Minister. Tun Abdul Razak Hussein was sworn in to replace him.

Tunku resumed as premier with Razak returning to his deputy's post after the Alliance won 74 out of the 104 parliamentary seats contested by a total of 259 candidates, including 29 Independents.

1964 - Nation reborn as Malaysia

The polls saw MCA playing a vital role in placating the Chinese with regard to Malay special rights and fear of a merger with Indonesia, resulting in the party being viewed as the voice of the nation's Chinese community.

The previous year, Tunku had convinced Singapore, Sabah, and Sarawak to join Malaya in the federal union known as Malaysia. Singapore would leave the federation in 1965.

This period also saw the creation of two political parties - the Democratic Action Party (DAP) on March 18, 1966, and Gerakan on March 24, 1968.

It was during this elections that Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad was elected as Member of Parliament for Kubang Pasu.

1969 - Tension and friction

This election remains the single most marred election in Malaysia's history. It saw the darkest hour of the nation, when riots broke out after the Alliance was pronounced the victor without a two-thirds majority. The Government declared a state of emergency, suspending the Constitution and Parliament until February 1971. The National Operations Council (NOC) and a caretaker Cabinet then governed the nation.

The polls saw Dr Mahathir losing his parliamentary seat and expelled from the party for having attacked Prime Minister Tunku Abdul Rahman in an open letter for allegedly neglecting the indigenous Malay community.

Penang fell to then-opposition party Gerakan, which won 16 out of the 24 state assembly seats. Later on, the Alliance and Gerakan formed a coalition government in Penang.

After the May 13 riots, the political leaders tried to build national unity.

They amended the Constitution to forbid discussion, even in Parliament, of certain "sensitive issues", including the special position of the Malays, Borneo's ethnic groups, and the powers of the Malay Sultans.

Determined to improve the economic condition of the Malays, the leaders also launched a 20-year plan called the New Economic Policy. It was meant to achieve better wealth balance among the races.

In September 1970, Tunku Abdul Rahman stepped down and Tun Abdul Razak succeeded him.

1974 - Time of youthful change

Under Prime Minister Tun Abdul Razak, national-level experiments on social and economic re-engineering were carried out to address existing imbalances.

To minimise racial politics, the Government created a multi-party alliance called Barisan Nasional using a weighing scale symbol instead of the Alliance's sailboat.

BN was then made up of Umno, MCA, MIC, PAS, PPP, Gerakan, Sarawak United People's Party (SUPP), Parti Pesaka Bumiputera, and the Sabah Alliance Party.

Only DAP and Parti Sosialis Rakyat Malaysia (PSRM) refused to join the coalition.

After a landslide victory, Razak announced the first Barisan cabinet of 21 members.

Dr Mahathir, who had been in the political wilderness after expulsion from Umno, was invited back into the party, re-elected to Parliament and appointed Education Minister.

In 1976, 22-year-old Najib Tun Razak became the youngest candidate to win the Pekan, Pahang, parliamentary seat. He was uncontested in the by-election held following his father's death.

Tun Hussein Onn became the nation's third prime minister.

1978 – The Hussein Onn era

BN won once again. However, PAS was wiped out in Kelantan during the elections and later expelled from Barisan. BN would rule Kelantan until 1990.

On July 15, 1981, Hussein chaired his last cabinet meeting. The next day Dr Mahathir was sworn in as Malaysia's fourth prime minister. He announced his new cabinet two days later, naming Tun Musa Hitam as his deputy.

1982 – Dr Mahathir in the saddle

When Dr Mahathir Mohamad took over as Prime Minister, he advocated the Look East Policy for Malaysia to beef up work ethics and achieve economic success.

The elections was held before the nation faced the brunt of the global economic downturn that affected Malaysia.

Dr Mahathir also sought to stamp his mark by replacing veterans with a younger set of Umno leaders.

Among those brought in was Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim who joined Umno prior to the elections and won the Permatang Pauh parliamentary seat under Barisan Nasional.

Dr Mahathir who defeated PAS' Yusof Rawa Abdullah for the Kubang Pasu parliamentary seat led Barisan to a resounding victory in the general election.

During this parliamentary term, he also pushed for Malaysia's first car, Proton, and pursued the policy of privatising government enterprises.

1986 – Dr M tightens grip

Despite the resignation of Musa Hitam as deputy prime minister and Home Minister, Dr Mahathir Mohamad steered BN to a resounding victory.

Dr Mahathir replaced Musa with Tun Ghafar Baba as deputy while Musa was persuaded to stay on as Umno deputy president.

In the Umno elections, Dr Mahathir defeated Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah for the presidency while Ghafar Baba beat Musa to be deputy.

This led to a party crisis, with Razaleigh and Datuk Seri Rais Yatim resigning from the Mahathir Cabinet.

In February 1988, the Kuala Lumpur High Court ruled that Umno was illegal following a suit by 11 Umno members aligned to Razaleigh.

Dr Mahathir then founded Umno Baru that was quickly accepted into the Barisan fold.

A year later, Tengku Razaleigh founded a breakaway party called Parti Melayu Semangat 46, with Rais as his deputy.

1990 – Dramatic liaisons

The seventh general election saw the Opposition coming close to denying BN a two-thirds majority by winning 53 seats, and their best performance since 1969.

Umno splinter group Semangat 46 presented a challenge to BN by forming electoral alliances among opposition parties.

Semangat 46 teamed up with PAS, Barisan Jemaah Islamiah Se-Malaysia (Berjasa) and Parti Hizbul Muslimin Malaysia to form Angkatan Perpaduan Ummah (APU). Semangat 46 also teamed up with DAP to form Gagasan Rakyat.

A week before the elections, Parti Bersatu Sabah pulled out of BN and joined Gagasan Rakyat.

Dr Mahathir described it as "a stab in the back" because the decision was made at almost the eleventh hour after nominations, damaging BN's chances in the elections.

He ordered Umno to make an entry into Sabah, and this decision changed the politics of Sabah, with Usno dissolved to make way for Umno.

Although PBS eventually contributed 14 parliamentary seats from Sabah to Gagasan Rakyat, the loose coalition failed to make an impact in the peninsula.

With a Barisan victory in hand, Dr Mahathir saw no opposition to his position in Umno.

In 1992, Ghafar resigned as deputy prime minister and Anwar, who had won the Umno deputy presidency, took over from Ghafar.

1995 – A record mandate and Reformasi

This general election was an excellent year for Barisan Nasional, which won 162 of the 192 seats.

The economic boom, an average 8% growth per annum, record investment levels and full employment boosted BN's fortunes.

Dr Mahathir announced a new goal called Vision 2020, intending to make Malaysia a fully-developed nation with a high standard of living by 2020.

The goal suffered a setback, however, when an economic crisis hit South-East Asia in 1997. By 1998, the growth of Malaysia's economy had slowed but the country took measures to put its economy back on track.

After weeks of rumours of a split between Dr Mahathir and his deputy over the handling of the financial crisis, Anwar was sacked on Sept 2, 1998.

Besides being detained under the Internal Security Act, Anwar was also charged in court with sodomy and corruption.

This episode led to the formation of Parti Keadilan Nasional by Anwar's wife, Datuk Seri Dr. Wan Azizah Wan Ismail.

1999 - Victory and end of a 22-year rule

Dr Mahathir called for the 10th general election after 15 months of allegations, protests and courtroom dramas in the wake of the sacking and jailing of Anwar.

Anwar's wife,Datuk Seri Dr. Wan Azizah, joined forces with DAP, PAS and Parti Rakyat Malaysia, forming the Barisan Alternatif.

DAP secretary general Lim Kit Siang was defeated in the Bukit Bendera parliamentary seat, thus losing his position as Opposition Leader in Parliament.

He was replaced by PAS' Fadzil Noor. Upon the latter's death, Terengganu Mentri Besar Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang took over as Opposition leader.

After a dramatic announcement in tears at the Umno assembly that he intended to step down, Dr Mahathir ended his 22-year reign and handed over the premiership to Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi on Oct 31, 2003.

March 21, 2004 – Abdullah's wind of change

Abdullah Badawi marched the nation to the polls barely four months after taking over from Dr Mahathir Mohamad.

The new leadership's message of change with greater civil liberties drew support, giving Barisan a record win and the largest majority since 1978.

While highlighting Barisan's past record of providing stability, Abdullah effectively appealed to voters by promising to correct weaknesses to make its record even better.

Barisan regained Terengganu, which it lost to PAS in 1999. In Kelantan, PAS only had a two-seat majority (which was reduced to one after a subsequent by-election). PAS' presence in Kedah was drastically reduced.

DAP lost Kota Melaka, its bastion in Malacca. Allegations of infighting made the rounds. There was some consolation for the party though as their top leaders Lim Kit Siang and Karpal Singh managed to get back into Parliament.

Keadilan had merged with PRM prior to the elections, and formed Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR). However,  PKR was almost decimated in the elections. Dr Wan Azizah managed to retain Permatang Pauh in Penang for the party's sole parliamentary seat.

2008 - BN loses its two-thirds majority

Seeking a fresh mandate 15 months before the end of his five-year term, Abdullah took a gamble that cost him his job.

The states of Selangor, Penang, Kedah, and Perak also slipped out of BN's hands, and it failed to wrest Kelantan from PAS. However, Perak returned to Barisan following the defection of several Pakatan Rakyat assembly members in 2009.

2008 saw the only elections besides the one in 1969 where Barisan Nasional lost its two-thirds majority in Parliament.

Abdullah subsequently stepped down and handed over the premiership to Datuk Seri Najib Abdul Razak on April 3, 2009.