Malaysia's ethnically mixed ruling coalition retained a key two-thirds parliamentary majority on Sunday, defeating an Islamist-led opposition after a campaign dominated by the role of Islam in the multi-faith nation.

In the first electoral test since veteran leader Mahathir Muhammad ended his 22-year rule by retiring last October, the Barisan National Coalition won 146 of the 219 seats in parliament, with 30% of seats undeclared at 17:46 GMT.

The two-thirds majority allows Abd Allah's government to pass laws uncontested.

At the same time, opposition parties had won only 12 seats.

It was an impressive showing by Abd Allah on Sunday. He has enjoyed a surge in popularity after taking over the coalition in October from Mahathir. 

The government was always expected to win, but the margin is much more than anticipated.

Electoral disasters

Barisan had retained control of the key state of Kedah and its tiny neighbour Perlis - both of which the opposition Parti Islam se-Malaysia (PAS) had targeted to take over.

The Islamic party suffered big
losses in this week's election

But for PAS's smaller ally, Parti Keadilan, which champions the cause of jailed former Deputy Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim, it was an electoral disaster.

Anwar's wife, Wan Azizah Wan Ismail, was in danger of losing her seat to a former imam of the National Mosque fielded by UMNO.

Abd Allah's candidates in the polls included several figures from the religious establishment whose views were in line with his so-called moderate, progressive interpretation of Islam.

Win, Formula One style

Abd Allah took time out to attend the Formula One Malaysian Grand Prix just outside Kuala Lumpur on Sunday, but his own victory over an opposition led by Muslim preachers was even more convincing than World Champion Michael Schumacher's supremacy on the track.

Amid all the tales of high-level corruption that dogged the Mahathir years, Abd Allah's untarnished reputation earned him the nickname Mr Clean.

Abd Allah struck all the right chords with voters in his first few months in power, launching an anti-corruption campaign and making a strong stand for ethical governance.

The 64-year-old son of a respected Muslim scholar kept his humble, pious image intact throughout, and efforts by the Islamist opposition to run him down backfired.

The only blot on his early months in power was the involvement of a firm part-owned by his son in the nuclear parts blackmarket scandal centred on Pakistan's top scientist Abd al-Qadir Khan - but that never became a big election issue.