Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, facing a number of problems, ordered the dissolution of both the national parliament and most state assemblies so the polls can be held simultaneously, the state's Bernama news agency reported.
Badawi said the government dissolved parliament before its term ended to gain a new mandate to continue its development programs, the report said. The multi-ethnic country has been beset by racial tensions and crime and also growing concerns about the economy.
Deputy Prime Minister Najib Tun Abdul Razak was quoted as saying the ruling Barisan National multi-racial coalition led by Badawi's United Malays National Organization hoped to retain its two-thirds majority in the 222-seat parliament it won the 2004 general election. The country's electorate is about 10.9 million.
Bernama reported some political observers have said the polls could be held next month, with nominations expected in the last week of this month.