Malaysian opposition loses control of key state

Other News Materials 5 February 2009 13:49 (UTC +04:00)

Malaysia's opposition alliance lost control of the northern state of Perak Thursday after the state's royal ruler consented to a government takeover following the defection of three opposition lawmakers.

The three-party opposition alliance led by Anwar Ibrahim previously held 31 parliamentary seats in the state's 59-member legislature, reported dpa.

However, on Wednesday three opposition lawmakers announced their decision to leave the alliance and become independent lawmakers.

The move allowed the ruling National Front - which now holds the same number of seats as the opposition at 28 - to wrest control of Perak's legislature after claiming that the three independents would support it in a vote.

On Thursday, the takeover was endorsed by the state's royal ruler, Sultan Azlan Shah, ending two days of political uncertainty and drama.

Anwar's opposition alliance had sought a meeting with the sultan late Wednesday to request a dissolution of the legislature and allow for fresh elections in the wake of the defections.

However, the sultan rejected the request, the official Bernama news agency reported, quoting a palace statement.

Instead, the sultan called for the resignation of the state's current Chief Minister in order for the National Front to take control, Bernama reported.

The recapturing of the state is seen as a major triumph for Deputy Prime Minister Najib Razak, who is expected to take over the premiership in late March.

Anwar, along with other leaders in his three-party alliance, gathered at an emergency meeting Thursday and later told reporters they would seek another audience with the sultan later in the day to appeal against the ruler's decision.

The opposition, which created political history when it won control of five of Malaysia's 13 states in last year's general elections, has accused the National Front of bribing its lawmakers to defect.

The government has denied the charges.