Malaysiakini: Anwar says BN lawmakers mull defection
Posted March 17, 2008on:
|Mar 17, 08 7:01pm|
| Opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim today said he had held talks with a number of ruling coalition lawmakers interested in defecting after this month’s landmark elections.
Anwar, a former deputy premier who was sacked and jailed a decade ago, helms a three-party alliance that made unprecedented gains in March 8 polls against the Barisan Nasional coalition which has ruled for half a century.
“People have come and approached me,” Anwar said, adding that he had spoken with “quite a number” and told them their support would not be bought.
“If you want to surrender at a price, then you have chosen the wrong party,” he told reporters, adding that they would be welcomed “if they accept our agenda”.
Anwar confirmed he was canvassing support from coalition lawmakers in East Malaysia, which represents a power bloc that could unseat the government if it changed hands.
Barisan Nasional will have 140 lawmakers in the new 222-seat parliament, against 199 in the outgoing 219-seat parliament. The opposition alliance claimed 80 seats from just 19 previously, and four more states.
The opposition was Monday sworn into power in the last of the five states it now controls, including Kelantan which was already held by the Islamic party PAS, while Barisan Nasional was still trying to resolve its power struggles.
Mohammad Nizar Jamaluddin from PAS was installed as chief minister in Perak state, state media said, ending a public squabble among the three opposition parties who will rule there in coalition.
Fighting for political life
Meanwhile, tiny Perlis – which was retained by Barisan Nasional — remained in limbo after the royal state ruler who formally appoints chief ministers dumped the incumbent backed by Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi.
Malaysia’s sultans have the constitutional right to appoint state leaders but in the past have rarely acted against the advice of the political leadership.
Now, however, Abdullah is fighting for his own political life as he fends off calls for his resignation to take responsibility for the election debacle.
The premier has rejected the pressure to quit, and pushed ahead with the formation of his new administration, with a new slimline cabinet expected to be unveiled on Tuesday.
Abdullah has promised “new faces” and observers said the line-up will indicate his appetite for reform after the polls, which have transformed Malaysia’s political landscape.
The previous cabinet had a whopping 32 ministers, 39 deputy ministers and 20 parliamentary secretaries, with jobs handed out to many of the 14 race-based parties that make up the coalition.
The large cabinet had been criticised as unwieldy and wasteful, and there is speculation that some ministries could be merged in line with the smaller Barisan Nasional representation in parliament.
However, political observers said Abdullah faces a headache in reducing positions while still mollifying the coalition members who are being courted by Anwar.
“Abdullah needs to make really bold moves, to bring in an economic team that brings confidence to the investment community,” said Bridget Welsh, a Southeast Asia expert from Johns Hopkins University who observed the elections.
“That means new faces, and the minute he removes older faces he weakens himself further with more infighting and leadership challenges,” she said.
“So my feeling is that they’ll put bandaids on the wounds, and this is how they’ll continue to govern.”