A general election was held between Saturday, 8 July and Saturday, 22 July 1978 for members of the 5th Parliament of Malaysia. Voting took place in all 154 parliamentary constituencies of Malaysia, each electing one Member of Parliament to the Dewan Rakyat, the dominant house of Parliament. State elections also took place in 276 state constituencies in 10 (out of 13, except Kelantan, Sabah and Sarawak) states of Malaysia on the same day.
As expected, Barisan Nasional comfortably maintained its majority in the Malaysian Parliament and thus, gave the Prime Minister the power to form a government with a free hand. Despite the victory, BN actually lost four seats out of 154 seats to the opposition.
The Pan-Malaysian Islamic Party (PAS) withdrew from BN in the midst of the 1977 Kelantan Emergency over disagreements with UMNO over the running of the state government of Kelantan, which PAS had controlled since the first post-independence general election in 1959. With the support of UMNO, detractors within PAS split with the party and formed the Pan-Malaysian Islamic Front (BERJASA). In the election, PAS lost the control of the state for the first time to the UMNO-BERJASA alliance within BN. Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah has been credited for UMNO's victory in Kelantan.
The opposition garnered 42.8% of total votes. In spite of that, the opposition as one won only 23 seats. Democratic Action Party won the largest slice of the pie among the opposition parties and hence, its leader Lim Kit Siang retained his position as the leader of the opposition that he had obtained four years earlier.
Candidates were returned unopposed in nine constituencies. The registered electors from these constituencies therefore did not cast ballots.