Opposition lawmakers held a meeting under a tree after riot police blocked them from entering a northern state’s parliament Tuesday in a tussle for power that has become symbolic of the turmoil in Malaysian politics.
The 28 legislators, accompanied by some 100 supporters, scuffled briefly with police and ruling party supporters outside the Perak state assembly building before retreating to a side street where they held the meeting.
Standing in the shade of a large tree, the lawmakers of the opposition People’s Alliance coalition passed a resolution calling for fresh elections to end a constitutional deadlock with the ruling National Front coalition on who should govern Perak.
“This is utter rubbish. Elected representatives are not allowed to go inside. It is not in accordance with the law. The police are practicing double standards,” said A. Sivanesan, an opposition legislator.
The spat in Perak state highlights the growing instability in Malaysian politics since the March 2008 elections when the National Front coalition of Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi suffered its worst results ever.
The ruling national coalition lost control of five states including Perak, as well as its traditional two-thirds majority in Parliament, conceding a large number of seats to the People’s Alliance.
Since then, the National Front has been trying hard to undermine the People’s Alliance. Perak, where the alliance had a three-seat majority, has been one of the centers in the political wrangling.
In early February, three People’s Alliance lawmakers defected amid allegations of bribery, tipping the balance in the 59-member state parliament in favor of the National Front.
Soon afterward, the state’s titular head, Sultan Azlan Shah, appointed National Front politician Zambry Abd Kadir as chief minister and head of a new government.
The People’s Alliance claimed the sultan acted unconstitutionally in appointing Zambry without waiting for a vote of confidence in the state parliament. Zambry’s predecessor, Mohammad Nizar Jamaluddin, meanwhile, has refused to step down.
Tuesday’s attempt by Perak parliament speaker V. Sivakumar, who belongs to the People’s Alliance, to hold an emergency session was foiled by police and supporters of the National Front.
“Go back!” the National Front supporters screamed, pushing back alliance members. Police did not intervene in the scuffle.
During the special session held under the tree, the alliance lawmakers, dressed in suits, called for dissolving the legislature and holding fresh elections.
“We are the rightful government … Now the state has two chief ministers, one that is legal, one that is absolutely illegal,” said Mohammad Nizar. “The crisis must be solved … through the dissolution of the state assembly.”
Malaysian police blocks opposition from state parliament