Opposition groups voiced concerns that the arrests were meant to undermine public support for Anwar ahead of next week's parliamentary by-election. Anwar has persistently accused Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi's administration of rampant corruption and has pledged to seize power by mid-September.
The government's Anti-Corruption Agency said it detained two legislators and four other suspects in northern Perak state for alleged crimes in connection to a 180 million ringgit (US$56 million) housing project and a sex case.
One of the legislators was "caught shortly after receiving a bribe of over 123,400 ringgit (US$38,500) to speed up the processing of a housing project," the agency said in a statement. It did not elaborate on the alleged sex case.
An agency official, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to make public statements, said the legislators were from Anwar's People's Justice Party, but he denied the crackdown was politically motivated.
The arrests could be a potential embarrassment for Anwar, who is already fighting a sodomy charge that he claims was concocted by the government to tarnish his reputation. The government has denied the allegations.
Anwar is widely expected to win an Aug. 26 by-election for a northern parliamentary seat that his wife recently vacated. But his allies voiced concerns that the arrests were meant to dent the opposition's credibility.
"We will not defend anybody among us who breaks the law, but we are concerned that this may be a case of victimization," said Ngeh Koo Ham, a lawmaker in Perak, one of five states the opposition won in March general elections.
"The timing of the arrests could be meant to target Anwar," Ngeh said. "We also fear that this could be a concerted effort to undermine the stability of the Perak state government."
Anwar's three-party alliance made major inroads against the National Front ruling coalition in March, wresting control of Malaysia's wealthiest states and securing an unprecedented 82 seats in the 222-member Parliament.
Anwar claims enough National Front lawmakers will defect to the opposition by mid-September for the government to collapse. He must win the by-election to fulfill his stated aim of becoming prime minister if the opposition seizes power.
Anwar's party was hit by more bad publicity Wednesday as police separately arrested a junior party official in connection with an alleged assault on two media photographers in the election campaign, the independent Malaysiakini news Web site reported.
Anwar was charged in court earlier this month with sodomizing a 23-year-old male ex-aide - the second time he has faced such a charge in the past decade.
Anwar, a former deputy prime minister, was also charged in 1998 with sodomizing his family driver and abusing his power to cover up the offense. Malaysia's highest court overturned the sodomy conviction in 2004.