Anwar Ibrahim. Pic: AP.

Internal squabbling could splinter Malaysian opposition, reports Asia Sentinel

Malaysia’s unwieldy Pakatan Rakyat opposition coalition, born in 2008 and led by Anwar Ibrahim, is facing the biggest crisis of its existence and could come apart, costing it the leadership of Selangor, the country’s richest state, and potentially costing Malaysia its only alternative to the scandal-ridden Barisan Nasional led by the United Malays National Organization, whose popularity with voters continues to flag.

The issue is an internecine squabble over who should be the chief minister of Selangor. It could force a snap state election that might hand victory to the Barisan Nasional, the ruling national coalition, according to the head of a Kuala Lumpur-based think tank.

Others are less pessimistic. A Malay businessman said he thought the parties eventually would sort out the issue, and that UMNO is more concerned about a Selangor snap election than the Pakatan coalition because it also fears losing.

Anwar, in an interview with the popular website Malaysian Insider, expressed optimism that the leadership of the three-party coalition would look at larger interests. “We have already endured so long with principles like tolerance,” he said. “I do not see it as a breakup.”

The coalition certainly survived a string of crises to prosper in the 2013 general election despite the disparate nature of the three parties that make it up. But, say several sources in Kuala Lumpur, Anwar is preoccupied over concern that he might be jailed as the result of a guilty verdict rushed through an appellate court in March, reversing a 2012 high court verdict. That case, popularly known as Sodomy II, accused Anwar of having forced sex with a male aide. Anwar spent six years in a Malaysian prison from 1998 to 2004 on similar charges that were widely considered to be trumped up by former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad and UMNO officials to keep him from heading the opposition.

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