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Malaysia opposition narrowly averts rift

KUALA LUMPUR--Malaysia's resurgent opposition coalition appeared to have averted a rift as its Islamic partner threw its support behind the other member parties on Sunday after weeks of wrangling.

Unprecedented electoral gains have enabled the three-party opposition to present a united front in the last two polls despite wide religious differences and pose a real challenge to the ruling coalition that has governed the country since independence.

But an impasse over a key political appointment put the conservative Pan-Malaysian Islamic Party (PAS) on a collision course with its two more-secular partners, reigniting doubts over the alliance's future.

A possible split-up was however averted after PAS said it remained committed to the Pakatan Rakyat (People's Pact) following a meeting of top PAS leaders.

“We are trying very hard to strengthen our coalition. Our bottom line is ... to ensure that Pakatan Rakyat is the alternative in Malaysian politics,” PAS vice president Salahuddin Ayub told reporters.

The row centered on a bid by de facto Pakatan head Anwar Ibrahim to have his widely respected wife, Wan Azizah Wan Ismail, head Selangor, Muslim-majority Malaysia's richest and most populous state, which the opposition won in 2008.

PAS earlier opposed the move, but on Sunday threw its support behind Wan Azizah rather than the incumbent chief minister, Khalid Ibrahim, who has been sacked from Anwar's party for refusing to relinquish the post.

Khalid said in a statement he would seek an audience with Selangor's sultan, who must endorse the chief minister, for “advice on the next steps” now that he had lost PAS support.

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