At the moment, it seems like the ruling coalition has managed to sneak in another victory, however small, in its unbroken rule in Malaysia. The ruling coalition, Barisan Nasional, looks set to form another government, but with a reduced majority.

Does this mean that Malaysian politics is set for more of the same? Perhaps not.

This vigorously contested election, with voter turnout reaching 80%, underlines the growth of political consciousness in Malaysia. Despite all the imperfections in the system, elections are very real political contests that Malaysians as a whole are engaged in.

The Malaysian Chinese Association (MCA), the ethnic Chinese component of the ruling coalition, appears to be struggling in this environment of intensified electoral competition. In Barisan Nasional’s Johor stronghold, Chinese votes have swung strongly towards the opposition. The Malaysian-Chinese daily, Sinchew suggest that the ruling coalition “is under pressure in Johor”. MCA may prove to be susceptible to collapse and no longer be a legitimate force in Malaysian politics.

This election, then, may prove to be the defeat of ethno-communalist politics in Malaysia.

For opposition-supporting Malaysians, there remains hope in their quest to end Barisan Nasional’s grip on the Malaysian state apparatus. Without reinvention after this victory, the government’s mandate will be a shaky one. The price of victory may be more than it can afford. As the last ethno-communalist party with legitimacy, the dominant party in the governing coalition – the United Malays National Organisation – will have to justify its own existence in the next election.