Monday, June 09, 2008

Malaysia's Anwar says fuel hike to hasten govt fall

KUALA LUMPUR, June 8 (Reuters)

- Malaysian opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim said on Sunday the government's unpopular decision to raise fuel prices will hasten its fall, as more members from the ruling coalition break ranks.

The hike in line with a global surge in oil prices has stoked public anger against Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, who is already battling for his political life after the worst electoral performance in his coalition's 50-year rule in March

Small and scattered protests have taken place against the 41 percent increase in petrol prices and 63 percent for diesel, which Anwar said was the result of the government's failure to manage its finances well despite being a new oil exporter.

The government says fuel subsidies have become financially crippling. Pump prices in Malaysia are still one of the cheapest in Asia.

"Politically, the message was clear on 8th of March, economically it's now a disaster. That is why we are calling on them to resign," Anwar told a news conference ahead of a rally called in the capital to build support against the ruling coalition.

Anwar, a former deputy prime minister, has previously said that he had enough lawmakers to topple Abdullah's government following the election on March 8 and was waiting for the right moment.

On Sunday, Anwar, sensing blood, said the plan for a change in government was on track as more members from Abdullah's ruling Barisan Nasional coalition were drawn to his group, angry over what he said was the "highest single increase" in fuel prices around the world.

"Our timetable (for party crossovers) is still on. It's on schedule and now it's more attractive after the price hikes."