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Malaysian opposition's future rides on Selangor crisis outcome

The future of Malaysia's opposition coalition Pakatan Rakyat could be riding on the outcome of a meeting this weekend as Islamic party PAS decides whether or not to back its coalition partners who want to replace Selangor's chief minister.

KUALA LUMPUR: The future of Malaysia's opposition coalition Pakatan Rakyat could be riding on the outcome of a meeting this weekend (Aug 17).

Islamic party PAS will be deciding whether or not to back its coalition partners, who want to replace the chief minister of Malaysia's most industrialised state, Selangor. If PAS chooses to go against the rest of the coalition, Malaysia could see the end of what was once a formidable opposition alliance.

It was the dream team - together, the People's Justice Party (PKR), the Democratic Action Party (DAP) and the Islamic party PAS became the first true threat to Barisan Nasional, which is the coalition that has ruled Malaysia since independence.

With differing ideologies, the opposition coalition, now known as Pakatan Rakyat, won supporters from across Malaysia's diverse society. But the alliance could soon be no more. Many PAS leaders are at loggerheads with their coalition partners over the very public quest to oust Tan Sri Abdul Khalid Ibrahim as chief minister of Selangor, Pakatan's prized state.

Mr Rafizi Ramli, strategic director of PKR, said: "There is every risk that it may split Pakatan. But I think reform is bigger than any coalition of parties and protecting the trust and mandate given by the public – it’s what Pakatan is all about. "

PKR said it no longer trusts Tan Sri Abdul Khalid’s integrity, questioning the nature of several deals he made while heading the Selangor government. The party has since fired Tan Sri Abdul Khalid as a party member. But the two-term chief minister has refused to budge from his post, arguing there is no valid reason for his dismissal. Still, during his terms, he has had to deal with public anger over problems affecting the state, including an ongoing water shortage crisis.

While DAP has backed PKR in its campaign to get rid of Tan Sri Abdul Khalid, many in PAS, including party president Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang, still believe Tan Sri Abdul Khalid to be a good leader. Others in the Islamic party are also not happy with PKR nominating a woman, party president Wan Azizah Wan Ismail, as Tan Sri Abdul Khalid’s replacement.

If PAS collectively chooses to back Tan Sri Abdul Khalid, the opposition coalition's future may be in jeopardy. Mr Tony Pua, National Publicity Secretary of DAP, said: "I think the viability of the coalition no longer holds. I think that the whole break-up may begin from there."

But some PAS members think once the party is fully briefed on why Tan Sri Abdul Khalid has to go, the odds of it leaving Pakatan will be minimal. Mr Mohamed Hanipa Maidin, PAS central committee member, said: "I can put it 1 out of 10. I believe that PAS will stick to Pakatan."

Amid the turmoil, some have questioned if Pakatan Rakyat has forgotten to stay true to its name, which means the People's Coalition. But with snap polls in Selangor now a possibility, the public may soon get to have their say, and it is anybody's guess if Pakatan, let alone PKR, will be trusted with the nation's richest state for a third time.