Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak dissolved parliament on Wednesday in preparation for a general election seen as the toughest challenge yet for the ruling coalition after 56 years in power.
"This morning I met the king and asked for his consent to dissolve the parliament," he said. "This dissolution will pave the way for the 13th general election."
The election commission will meet shortly to decide on a date for the poll, which is likely to take place within the next few weeks.
Analysts predict the election will be the closest ever amid concerns over corruption, the rising cost of living and crime under the Barisan Nasional coalition, which has ruled Malaysia since independence in 1957.
The 13-member coalition is dominated by the United Malays National Organisation, which is led by Najib, who has worked hard to rebrand UMNO by launching a series of reforms aimed at boosting the economy and granting greater civil liberties.
The opposition three-party Pakatan Rakyat (People's Pact), led by the charismatic Anwar Ibrahim, made unprecedented inroads in the last polls in 2008.
It currently holds 75 of 222 parliamentary seats and controls four of the country's 13 states