KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AP) — Malaysia's three-party opposition alliance, once touted as an alternative to the country's long-ruling coalition, has collapsed over policy differences.
The People's Alliance, led by jailed former Deputy Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim, had made strong gains since 2008 polls and won the popular vote in 2013. However, a renewed push by one of its members, the Pan-Malaysian Islamic Party, to enforce Islamic Shariah laws sparked protests from another member, the Democratic Action Party.
The breakup benefits Prime Minister Najib Razak's coalition, which has been struggling to win back votes.
It came after a new conservative leadership in the Islamic party recently voted to sever ties with the Democratic Action Party. The DAP declared the death of the opposition pact on Tuesday, while Anwar's People's Justice Party said Wednesday the alliance "no longer functions formally."
In the previous two elections, the parties set aside their differences over the Islamic party's goal to implement Shariah laws.
However, cracks between the parties began appearing after the Islamic party moved to push for the Shariah laws in Parliament this year. In early February, Anwar was jailed for five years after losing his appeal on a sodomy charge, which he maintained was a political conspiracy to kill his career.
Support for Najib's National Front coalition has been slowly eroding since 2008 after more than five decades of unquestioned dominance. Najib has also recently come under siege, with former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad leading calls for his resignation amid controversy over a debt-laden state investment fund.
Anwar's wife Wan Azizah Wan Ismail, who heads the People's Justice Party, expressed regret over the Islamic party's move but said the DAP's declaration of the alliance's death was too hasty.
Despite the breakup, she said her party will continue to support governance in three Malaysian states ruled by the opposition.
She said in a statement the party will seek to "build a coalition among political parties, non-governmental organizations, and groups and influential individuals" to defeat the ruling coalition.
Ruling party lawmakers said they were not surprised by the breakup.
"I have said many times before that the (opposition alliance) is so fragile. Sleep on the same pillow, (but) have different dreams," Defense Minister Hishammuddin Hussein said on Twitter.
The next general elections are due in 2018.