Updated: 08/09/2014 20:45 | By Agence France-Presse

Malaysia party ousts figure at heart of opposition row

One of Malaysia's main opposition parties on Saturday expelled a top parliamentarian whose refusal to vacate a key post threatens to break apart the country's rising three-party opposition alliance.

Malaysia party ousts figure at heart of opposition row

Chief minister of Selangor Khalid Ibrahim (centre) attends a ceremony to launch the third bridge project in Klang, outside Kuala Lumpur on August 6, 2014 - by Mohd Rasfan

Khalid Ibrahim was stripped of his membership in Parti Keadilan Rakyat (People's Justice Party, PKR) over his refusal to vacate the post of chief minister of Selangor, Muslim-majority Malaysia's richest and most populous state.

The affair is the worst crisis in the six-year history of the tripartite Pakatan Rakyat (People's Pact) opposition coalition, which has made historic electoral gains by offering itself as an alternative to the country's decades-old ruling regime.

Khalid's refusal to budge has been supported by key figures in the Pan-Malaysia Islamic Party (PAS) -- a conservative Muslim party and Pakatan member -- laying bare deep inter-party rivalries in the coalition.

"We have sacked him for the open defiance of party decisions and Pakatan coalition decisions," said PKR secretary general Saifuddin Nasution Ismail.

The move is likely to anger Khalid supporters within PAS.

PAS's senior leadership was due to meet on August 17 to decide a final stand by the party on Khalid's position.

PAS leaders could not immediately be reached for comment.

Saifuddin said Khalid remains chief minister of Selangor until ousted by the state assembly, the assembly is dissolved, or he is ordered to step down by Malaysia's royalty.

A former corporate executive, Khalid, 67, is respected by some for his running of the state, first won by the hard-charging opposition in 2008 and held in elections last year.

National power was retained by the long-ruling coalition dominated by the United Malays National Organisation (UMNO), which has governed Malaysia since independence in 1957.

Opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim has been angling to have his widely respected wife, Wan Azizah Wan Ismail, appointed Selangor boss, nudging Khalid aside.

The move is apparently part of opposition positioning in advance of the next elections, due by 2018, but has met PAS resistance.

UMNO has overseen decades of solid economic progress but is accused of persistent corruption, rights abuses and stirring racial and religious divisions in the multi-ethnic country.

The unwieldy Pakatan features the Muslim ethnic Malay PAS, the multi-racial PKR, and the Democratic Action Party dominated by ethnic Chinese.

Pakatan members have so far largely been able to paper over their deep religious and social differences thanks to their recent electoral successes.

But the Selangor impasse is widely expected to do long-term harm to the coalition's togetherness and its claim to be a stable, viable alternative to the current regime.

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