Malaysian opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim on Monday said his party was gearing up for two local by-elections seen as a further test of the political mood weeks after the opposition snatched a parliamentary seat from the ruling coalition.

The seats in the northern state of Perak were vacated after two legislators from Mr Anwar’s Keadilan party who face trial on corruption charges resigned.

The opposition alliance made huge strides in general elections last March, winning five states including Perak and a third of parliamentary seats from the National Front coalition which has ruled for half a century.

Since then, the National Front led by Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi has lost two parliamentary constituencies, the most recent last month.

The results, which did not alter the balance of power but showed the government had failed to claw back support after the disastrous general elections, triggered calls for sweeping reforms from within the coalition.

Mr Anwar said he was waiting for the Election Commission to fix the polling date for the new by-elections.

‘The state speaker V. Sivakumar has declared the two state seats in the northern Perak state as vacant after receiving resignations letters from the two state councillors,’ Mr Anwar told AFP.

‘The opposition is drawing up the election strategy now. We hope to win,’ he added.

The two state cabinet ministers who stepped down – Mr Jamaludin Mat Radzi, 52, and Mr Osman Jailu, 57 – were last year charged with taking bribes and are due to appear for a court hearing on Feb 10.

The resignations have thrown politics in the fragile opposition-held Perak state into disarray.

The opposition alliance led by Keadilan controls the 59-seat state assembly with a slim majority.

With the two vacant seats, the opposition now holds 30 while the National Front coalition has 27. — AFP