Roslan Rahman, Getty Images
Opposition Pan-Malaysian Islamic Party supporters jubilate outside party headquarters in Kota Bahru, Malaysia, early today.

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia — Malaysia's ruling coalition on Saturday suffered its biggest electoral upset ever, losing control of four state governments and more than one-third of parliament in a show of frustration over racial tensions, crime and corruption.

It was a humiliating outcome for the National Front coalition, which has governed Malaysia since independence from Britain in 1957, and raised questions about the political future of Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi.

At the federal level, the coalition failed to win a two-thirds majority in the 222-seat Parliament for the first time since 1969. Instead it had to be satisfied with a simple majority, winning 139 of the 220 seats for which results had been announced by the Election Commission.

Even if it wins the remaining two seats it would fall short of the 148 needed for a two-thirds majority.

It was a stunning reversal of fortunes for Abdullah, who had led the Front to its best ever result in the last elections in 2004, winning 91 percent of the parliamentary seats and 12 of Malaysia's 13 states.

"As of now we have obtained a simple majority," said Abdullah, looking grim as he addressed reporters with his wife, Jeanne, and deputy Prime Minister Najib Razak by his side.

He said he would meet the constitutional monarch today to stake claim on a new government, and dismissed suggestions that he would face pressure from party members to step down.

"I don't know who would pressure me. There is nothing at this time," he said.

For the first time since 1969, the National Front lost control of the assembly in northern Penang, the only state where ethnic Chinese are a majority. It also lost control of Selangor, Kedah and Perak states for the first time, and failed to wrest Kelantan state from the opposition.

The defeat in Penang was like "a tsunami coming in," said Chang Ko Youn, vice president of Gerakan party, which belongs to the ruling coalition. "Nobody expected it to be so bad. I am a bit worried for the future of our party and our country."