PETALING JAYA - Despite their earlier denials, PKR leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim looks set to take over from Tan Sri Khalid Ibrahim as Selangor Mentri Besar following the sudden resignation of Kajang assemblyman Lee Chin Cheh.
Selangor Speaker Hannah Yeoh confirmed yesterday that Lee, who is from PKR, had resigned his state seat. Lee handed in his letter at 3pm after meeting Anwar two hours earlier - paving the way for a by-election in Kajang.
Lee's resignation is believed to be connected to mounting speculation that Anwar plans to head the Selangor government.
Khalid is expected to announce his decision to step down tomorrow after his weekly audience with the Sultan of Selangor. However, he will likely remain as Mentri Besar until after the by-election.
High level sources in PKR said Khalid agreed to step aside in favour of Anwar during their four-eyed meeting on Sunday.
Khalid apparently agreed to go after being told that PAS and DAP leaders had concurred with PKR's request for a change in the state's top post. "The party was very firm that Khalid has to go and that the announcement must come this week - before Chinese New Year," a source said.
Khalid is believed to have laid down one iron-clad condition that his replacement should not be arch rival Azmin Ali, the PKR deputy president and Selangor chairman.
A PAS delegation of four national leaders met Anwar at his house in Segambut on Sunday night to discuss the matter.
It is understood that Anwar wanted to personally explain the latest development to PAS, which also laid claim to the Mentri Besar's post after the general election. PAS felt that it, too, was entitled to the job because the party and DAP had won 15 seats each while PKR secured only 14.
PAS Selangor convened an emergency meeting last evening to discuss the matter.
The development is taking place at the highest echelon of PKR, leaving many of its top officials in the dark. Even aides to the Mentri Besar were unaware of what was happening.
The wheels for the dramatic turn of events were set in motion not long after the PKNS fiasco during which Khalid was perceived to be the hidden hands behind the decision to end Azmin's term as member of the board of the Selangor Development Corporation.
Khalid had survived numerous attempts to unseat him, but it seems like luck has run out for the man known as "the cat with nine lives".
PKR is said to be also unhappy over the way he handled several other hot issues such as the Jais seizure of Bibles and the row over non-Muslim's use of the term "Allah". The huge pay hike for Selangor elected representatives was another controversy.
Barring any hiccups, this will be the second forced by-election involving Anwar. In 2008, his wife and party president Datuk Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail had resigned as Permatang Pauh MP to enable her husband to return as an MP.
There have been questions whether Anwar, who is Penang-born, would be eligible for the top job. However, Selangor laws only specify that the Mentri Besar has to be a Muslim and a Malay.