Malaysia’s embattled ruling coalition said on Wednesday it was ready to wrest control of an opposition-led state after two more lawmakers quit, as it seeks to strengthen its position after a string of poll defeats.

Deputy Prime Minister Najib Razak wants to reclaim power in northern Perak state to restore the credibility of his government before he assumes the premiership next month.

Some analysts say Najib’s multi-ethnic National Front coalition is in danger of being abandoned by voters in the next general election due by 2013 because of a perception of worsening public corruption and racial and religious tensions.

The outcome of the Perak political drama would not change the balance of power in parliament.

The opposition alliance, led by former deputy premier Anwar Ibrahim, lost its majority in the Perak state government on Wednesday after several of its lawmakers quit in the last few days.

On Wednesday, one lawmaker said she would become an independent while another, who defected to Anwar’s party just weeks earlier, rejoined the main National Front coalition.

This comes after two other Perak lawmakers announced on Tuesday they had quit Anwar’s party to become independent lawmakers. The three independent lawmakers have declared support for the National Front coalition.

The Perak ruler can now either hand over control of the state to Najib or dissolve the state government and call for fresh polls.

“In line with this development, I will meet with the Sultan of Perak to inform his majesty officially that the Perak National Front has the needed support to establish the new Perak government,” Najib told reporters in the administrative capital.

State news agency Bernama reported that Perak Chief Minister Mohamad Nizar Jamaluddin had met the Perak ruler to seek his consent to dissolve the state assembly.

“I have explained the latest political situation, it is up to (the Sultan),” Nizar was quoted by Bernama as saying.

The lawmakers’ resignations, which follows weeks of political uncertainty in the state, has sowed confusion and sparked some concerns about possible protests as frustrated opposition supporters might take to the streets.

Asked if the National Front coalition had lost the moral high ground by attempting to wrest control of Perak state in this way, Najib said: “No, we didn’t start it. Somebody wanted to form the government on Sept. 16.”

Anwar had claimed that the opposition would take over the federal government last Sept. 16, with a sufficient number of National Front coalition lawmakers ready to defect, but the promise did not materialise.

Najib is set to inherit a coalition weakened by two key by-election losses in the last six months after it suffered its worst performance in the March 2008 general election.

The ruling coalition lost its once iron-clad two-thirds parliamentary majority in the March poll which also saw it ceding five states to the opposition, including Perak.

REUTERS