04/02/2008, 00.00
MALAYSIA
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The opposition aligns, while the leadership wobbles

The three opposition parties unite in the "People's Alliance", but Islamic law casts a shadow on the real political unity of the new coalition. Urgent requests for prime minister Abdullah, effectively defeated in the last election, to resign.

Kuala Lumpur (AsiaNews/Agencies) - Three political formations in the opposition in Malaysia have united in a coalition that aims at presenting itself as a valid alternative to the party in power, which is now facing a profound crisis of consensus.  The birth of the People's Alliance (Pakatan Rakyat) was announced yesterday at a press conference held by Anwar Ibrahim, its de facto leader.

The Democratic Action Party (DAP), the People's Justice Party (PKR) and the Islamic PAS party won a record number of seats in the parliamentary elections on March 8.  The three formations also won five states in the administrative elections: Kelantan, Kedah, Penang, Perak, and Selangor.  The result has inflicted a harsh blow on the coalition of the National Front (BN), headed by the Umno party, at the head of the Federation for 50 years.  And it is leading to instability within the leadership of prime minister Abdullah Badawi.  Yesterday, in a meeting in Kuala Lumpur, more than 500 members of the BN asked for his resignation.  It is claimed that the change of leadership is necessary to maintain the political "relevance" enjoyed until now by the Umno.

For many years, the opposition was weak and was divided between those who looked to liberal voters in the cities and those - the PAS - who received their support in the countryside, asking for the institution of an Islamic state.  The demands of the PAS are now casting doubt on the real unity of the three parties in terms of their ideology and political platform. Anwar, the head of the PKR and a staunch enemy of the prime minister, guarantees that sharia "will not present a problem", but has been unable to confirm whether the PAS has renounced its Islamic ambitions.

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