Fears of dissent roiled Malaysia’s opposition yesterday after a senior figure demanded that Anwar Ibrahim step down as the alliance’s leader following the loss of a key state to the ruling coalition.
Anwar’s three-party alliance is suffering its gravest challenge after several opposition lawmakers in Perak State switched allegiances last week.
The National Front coalition then wrested control of the northern state administration, which was one of an unprecedented five that the opposition won in general elections last March.
Malaysian Deputy Prime Minister Najib Razak orchestrated the takeover and is due to assume the premiership in late March in a bid to revive the government’s ebbing popularity.
The opposition said the takeover was unlawful and pledged to challenge it in court.
Karpal Singh, chairman of the opposition Democratic Action Party, blamed Anwar for the setback, insisting he encouraged notions of disloyalty when he made a failed attempt to oust the National Front through parliamentary defections after last year’s elections.
Karpal said on Sunday that the opposition should find another leader.
He said he had the backing of ordinary party members, but added that other top opposition officials “have fallen to the temptation, fallen to the rhetoric of Anwar Ibrahim in supporting crossovers.”
“Anwar Ibrahim has created enough trouble for the country,” Karpal told reporters.
Footage of Karpal’s news conference was widely posted on the Internet yesterday.
Anwar downplayed Karpal’s comments, telling a public rally late on Sunday that there was no bad blood between them.
Karpal’s call is unlikely to dislodge Anwar, who is credited with weaving an alliance of three ideologically different opposition parties.
But it signals a potential split among opposition officials over how to sustain their political momentum following last year’s electoral gains.
The National Front, which has governed Malaysia since 1957, held on to power with less than its longtime two-thirds parliamentary majority in last year’s elections, in which the opposition won an unprecedented 82 seats in the 222-member parliament and took control of five states.