Malaysia’s ruling coalition took an early lead in results for national elections on Sunday after a record number of voters cast ballots, with some choosing to extend the coalition’s 56-year rule and others pressing for an unprecedented victory by an opposition that pledges cleaner government.

Prime Minister Najib Razak’s National Front coalition captured 25 parliamentary seats while opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim’s three-party alliance seized 13 in the earliest results released by the Election Commission. At least 112 of the 222 parliamentary seats at stake are needed to win federal power.

Many of the seats won so far are in the National Front’s traditional rural strongholds in Borneo, where Mr. Anwar’s alliance was hoping to make major inroads to bolster its chances of winning.

The National Front has triumphed in 12 consecutive general elections since independence from Britain in 1957, but it was facing its most unified challenge ever from an opposition that hoped to capitalise on widespread allegations of arrogance, abuse of public funds and racial discrimination against the National Front.

Initial counting showed the opposition retained strong support in urban constituencies, especially in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia’s biggest city, and was almost certain to retain control of northern Penang state, one of Malaysia’s wealthiest territories.

The National Front held 135 seats in the 222-member Parliament dissolved last month. It is anxious to secure a stronger five-year mandate and regain the two-thirds legislative majority that it held for years but lost in 2008.

Many observers believe the National Front may edge out Mr. Anwar’s alliance partly because of its entrenched support in predominantly rural districts. The opposition may retain at least two of 13 state legislatures and should perform well in urban constituencies where middle-class voters have clamoured for change. — AP