Page last updated at 02:59 GMT, Monday, 9 February 2009

Malaysia state boss denied office

Deposed state chief minister Bizar Jamaluddin tries to enter government building, Ipoh, Perak, Malaysia 6 Feb 09
State minister Nizar Jamaluddin falls victim to fractious Malaysian politics

A Malaysian opposition leader has been forcibly removed by police from his office in a political tussle over which party controls the state's legislature.

Perak state's chief minister, Nizar Jamaluddin, described his removal as a "coup" and promised legal action.

The opposition won control of Perak state in general elections last March.

But the ruling National Front coalition said it was wresting control of Perak state legislature after the defection of several opposition lawmakers.

Deputy Prime Minister Najib Razak said the lawmakers were now "friendly independents".

Mr Najib is expected to become prime minister next month in a transition agreed with incumbent Abdullah Badawi.

Commentators have described the Perak manoeuvres as a burnishing of Mr Najib's image as a decisive and politically adept leader before next month's internal party vote.

He had recently run two by-election campaigns in which the National Front coalition lost.

Public concerns

The National Front claimed it had wrested control of Perak's legislature after three lawmakers quit the opposition on Wednesday.

Following the defections, both sides have 28 seats in Perak's 59-member legislature, but the National Front claims it effectively has control because the three independents would back it in any vote.

Such a takeover is really a big blow to democracy and insults the wisdom of the masses
Opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim
The takeover was endorsed by Sultan Azlan Shah, the influential hereditary ruler of the state.

Chief minister Nizar Jamaluddin insisted he had the popular mandate and refused to leave office, but when he arrived at work on Friday, he found all his personal belongings had been removed.

Police escorted him out of the building less than an hour later.

More than 2,000 opposition supporters had gathered late on Thursday at his home in a show of support, shouting "Reform" and "Long live the people"

"Such a takeover is really a big blow to democracy and insults the wisdom of the masses," opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim told the Associated Press news agency.

Senior opposition leader Lim Kit Siang accused Najib of making an "illegal and unconstitutional grab for power in Perak".

The respected Malaysiakini news website reported extensive blogging activity in support of the ousted chief minister and calls for fresh elections.

Due process?

Opposition leaders have criticised the conduct in the Perak change of power, saying the use of defections instead of an open by-election has damaged democracy.

Anwar Ibrahim's opposition Pakatan Rakyat alliance won an unprecedented five of Malaysia's 13 states in general elections last year.

He later tried to take over the government by engineering defections but failed to gain adequate numbers.

The same party has controlled Malaysia for more than 50 years but analysts say there is no doubt the government is struggling.

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