With a minister threatening to quit and opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim claiming the support of 31 members of the ruling Barisan Nasional (BN), Malaysian Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi seems to be in serious trouble.
Mounting pressure on Badawi to step down as he had lost majority, Ibrahim claimed that more than 31 BN lawmakers had agreed to cross over to his opposition alliance Pakatan Rakyat. He, however, refused to reveal the names of the 31 MPs, Star Online reported on Tuesday.
Ibrahim said late on Monday he would form a new administration with defecting government lawmakers and sought a meeting with Badawi to show him the list of names and discuss a handover.
Adding to Badawi's problems, Zaid Ibrahim, the minister in the prime minister's department who also acts as a law minister, said Tuesday he had made up his mind to quit in protest against the arrests last week of a woman lawmaker, a woman journalist and a blogger. The three were detained Friday under the stringent Internal Security Act in connection with media reports of an allegedly racist speech by a ruling party leader during the campaign against Ibrahim in a parliamentary by-election last month.
Responding to speculation over his future as prime minister, Badawi said, "This is a waste of our time. It is a game of political lies by Anwar Ibrahim and the people are choosing to believe him."
"He has no substance but people will continue to be fascinated by him," he told reporters on Tuesday.
Badawi rejected Ibrahim's claim that it has enough support to seize power as "mere dreams", saying he was under no pressure to resign.
If Zaid finally quits, it would be the first resignation from the Badawi-led coalition government that emerged victorious, but seriously weakened, in the elections in March. It lost for the first time its two-thirds parliamentary majority and control of five of the 13 states.
The Anwar Ibrahim-led opposition, which bagged an unprecedented 82 seats, quickly forged an alliance that is 30 short of the parliamentary majority.
After the elections, Ibrahim had set himself a target of September 16 to persuade at least 30 government lawmakers to switch sides and enable him to form a new administration.