Azmin takes over reins of Selangor today

In a surprising admission of defeat, Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) president Wan Azizah Wan Ismail withdrew her candidacy as Selangor chief minister late yesterday, officially ending efforts by her husband, opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim, to seize control of Malaysia's richest state.

She said in a statement that the opposition party fully supported its deputy president Azmin Ali for the influential post.

Mr Azmin, who is widely influential in PKR and spent decades as the right-hand man to Datuk Seri Anwar, is due to be sworn in as Selangor Menteri Besar this morning.

His rise to the chief ministership cements his position as a key opposition figure. But this development is a huge blow to Mr Anwar's image, and weakens his credentials as both the leader of the opposition alliance and a potential prime ministerial candidate.

Datuk Seri Dr Wan Azizah said: "I receive with an open heart the decision of the Sultan who has appointed Azmin as the new Menteri Besar. I have taken this decision in the interest of the people as this crisis needs to be resolved as soon as possible."

Mr Anwar had launched a brazen attempt in January to wrest control of the state. After he was blocked from becoming a member of the state assembly by a sodomy conviction - now under appeal - he pushed for his wife to take the chief minister's post instead.

Mr Anwar was successful in ousting the outgoing Menteri Besar Khalid Ibrahim, but was eventually foiled by the powerful Selangor Sultan who repeatedly rebuffed Dr Wan Azizah's nomination and instead decided to appoint Mr Azmin.

Mr Azmin received a letter of appointment from the palace yesterday, confirming that he will head the state government beginning today.

"As soon as I received the letter, I immediately informed our de facto leader (Anwar)," Mr Azmin told reporters before rushing to a late night meeting with opposition ally, the Democratic Action Party (DAP). He added: "I want to thank the party president and the entire leadership as they have unanimously endorsed me as the party's Menteri Besar candidate."

Sources told The Straits Times that Mr Anwar and Dr Wan Azizah also attended the meeting with DAP, where they were expected to gain their ally's endorsement for Mr Azmin. DAP has stated it has no issue with Mr Azmin becoming chief minister, so long as his own party supports his candidacy.

Sultan Sharifuddin Idris Shah, whose assent is needed to form a government, had early this month rebuked both PKR and DAP for only naming Dr Wan Azizah as their sole candidate. He criticised the two parties for defying his decree demanding more than two candidates for the top post.

Last week, the state ruler interviewed three candidates from the Pakatan Rakyat (PR) coalition, including two Parti Islam SeMalaysia (PAS) assemblymen. But he refused to grant Dr Wan Azizah an audience.

Today's ceremony ends the term of Tan Sri Khalid Ibrahim, who was sacked by PKR for defying orders to step down as chief minister.

This article was first published on Sep 23, 2014.
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