16 April, 2008

Resurgent Anwar piles pressure on Malaysia PM

Malaysia's embattled premier Abdullah Ahmad Badawi faced a serious challenge Tuesday as opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim said he had the support of enough government defectors to seize power.
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Analysts backed Anwar's dramatic claim, saying turmoil in the ruling coalition could hasten an exodus of lawmakers and propel Anwar to power after last month's stunning general election gains by the opposition alliance.
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Anwar, a former deputy prime minister who was sacked and jailed a decade ago, said at a rally late Monday that he had enough support to form a government but would not act until he had a more comfortable majority.
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"Yes, we have enough MPs to topple the government," he told reporters after police broke up the rally, which drew more than 10,000 supporters to celebrate the end of his ban from politics.
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"We are saying here for the first time that we are ready (to rule)," he said. "But we will only enter when the majority is comfortable."
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"Do we want to be a government with a two- or five-seat majority?"
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Police on Tuesday summoned Anwar's wife Wan Azizah Ismail, who is president of their Keadilan party, as well as Selangor state chief minister Khalid Ibrahim and several others over the rally, which had been declared illegal.
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Keadilan said it considered the move an act of "intimidation and provocation," and the official Bernama news agency quoted Azizah as saying she would not give a statement to police -- a move that could see her arrested.
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"We can apply to the court to issue a warrant of arrest for them. However, we do not want to do that," Kuala Lumpur deputy police chief Abdul Samah Mat told Bernama.
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The Pakatan Rakyat opposition alliance claimed more than a third of parliamentary seats and five states in the polls, dealing an unprecedented blow to the Barisan Nasional coalition which has governed for half a century.
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Abdullah faces growing demands to quit, but has defiantly claimed a mandate to rule and refused to discuss a succession plan until after his United Malays National Organisation (UMNO) conducts internal leadership polls in December.
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Anwar has said that coalition lawmakers from Sabah and Sarawak states on Borneo island have approached him about switching sides, but so far none has declared their intentions publicly.
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James Chin, political science professor at Monash University's Kuala Lumpur campus, said coalition MPs were ready to defect because of UMNO infighting and uncertainty over Abdullah's leadership.
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"It is true MPs are waiting to jump. They will do it for money and power," he told AFP.
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"Abdullah is fighting for his political life and Anwar is pouring oil onto the fire by stating that he has enough defectors to form the next government."
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Tricia Yeoh from the Centre for Public Policy Studies said Anwar was highlighting his ability to form the government in order to "inject in people's mind that there can be an alternate government."
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"My gut feeling says yes. He has been rallying support in East Malaysia. It will be risky for him to lie," she said, when asked if he had enough support to take power.
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However, Domestic Trade Minister Shahrir Samad dismissed Anwar's claims, saying he was not aware of any coalition lawmakers planning to jump.
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"Not as far as I know," he told AFP.
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Timbon Herbert Lagadan, a state assemblyman from Sabah, said Anwar's comments were merely "political rhetoric."
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"I don't think he will get MPs from Sabah or Sarawak to join him," he told AFP.
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"Anwar is a man who cannot be trusted. He promised development for Sabah when he was deputy prime minister and finance minister but he failed to deliver."

Source :"Resurgent Anwar piles pressure on Malaysia PM"

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