Malaysia's prime minister has called an emergency session of the ruling party's top policy-making body, seeking to stamp his authority after the dramatic defection of former premier Mahathir Mohamad.
Abdullah Ahmad Badawi was due to chair a special supreme council meeting of the United Malays National Organisation (UMNO) at 1200 GMT on Wednesday, his office said.
UMNO has been in turmoil since its poor showing in March elections, which was seen as heightening political risk and spooked investors in the Southeast Asian country.
Mahathir's bombshell resignation on Monday from the party he led for 22 years came with a call for other UMNO members to quit with him. A meeting of lawmakers on Tuesday ignored the call and rallied behind Abdullah.
Mahathir said he was resigning in a bid to force Abdullah out, but the prime minister said he would not quit.
Analysts said the most likely outcome of Wednesday night's meeting was a reaffirmation by UMNO leaders of their support for the prime minister.
"At this point, there are so many factions and alliances within the leadership. But he will probably get the support of the majority within the Supreme Council," said Lee Hock Guan, senior fellow with Institute of South East Asian Studies in Singapore.
Mahathir's defection from UMNO came three days after Abdullah ordered the attorney-general to investigate the former premier and five others on possible offences over the appointment of judges while he was in power.
It added to concerns about the continued hold on power of the Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition, of which UMNO is the dominant partner. An emboldened opposition, headed by Mahathir arch-foe Anwar Ibrahim, is seeking to wrest power by wooing BN defectors.
Anwar, a former deputy premier, said Mahathir's resignation was indicative of UMNO's worsening crisis.
"The internal problems of UMNO are clearly deteriorating beyond any hope of recovery," he said, and called on Malaysians to join his group.
UMNO, backbone of the 14-party BN that has ruled since independence from Britain in 1957, holds 79 of its 140 seats.
The opposition is a loose alliance of Islamists, a Chinese-based party and the multiracial PKR, and needs to gain just 30 seats to win a simple majority and form the government.
Güncelleme Tarihi: 21 Mayıs 2008, 11:58