The sudden sacking of two Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) youth leaders aligned to party No. 2 Azmin Ali has thrown next week's annual national congress into doubt and raised the mercury in the internal feud between party president Anwar Ibrahim and his deputy.
Sources told The Straits Times that Youth permanent chairman Mizan Noor and his deputy Ramly Ahmad were removed to head off an expected attempt to unseat the wing's chief Akmal Nasir - who is allied to Datuk Seri Anwar - at its annual meeting in Melaka.
A permanent chairman in most Malaysian parties has powers akin to the Speaker of a legislative assembly, giving him final say on proceedings.
Letters signed off by PKR Youth secretary Syukri Razab informing the duo of their dismissal on Wednesday said they were disqualified because they are now above the age limit of 35 for the wing, and the total votes cast in their election at party polls last year were more than the number of delegates present.
But the duo warned yesterday that the party could be deregistered as their sackings were "without solid grounds". They also questioned why action was being taken only a year after the internal elections were completed.
Mr Akmal dismissed the possibility that the party would be deregistered, but some party officials say the dismissals throw last year's entire Youth wing election in doubt.
"The names of those elected last year are already with the Registrar of Societies. It may not recognise this year's congress if it goes ahead with a different chair. We may have to resolve this in court before proceeding," a PKR leader told The Straits Times.
The proxy battle in the Youth wing began early this month when Economic Affairs Minister Azmin was not given the traditional honour of opening the Youth's national congress, leading to his faction in the wing - which won 21 of 25 positions contested - threatening mutiny.
Sarawak PKR leaders led by state chief Baru Bian later said the state annual convention last week had been cancelled to protest against the decision barring Mr Azmin from officiating the Youth meeting. However, those loyal to Mr Anwar proceeded with the event.
The two sides have engaged in further skirmishes this week, as Works Minister Baru's former political secretary was sacked from the party for alleged graft. This was followed by pro-Azmin assemblymen in Melaka blocking Mr Anwar's pick for a federal senatorship, resulting in an unprecedented and embarrassing defeat for the Pakatan Harapan (PH) state government's motion.
The removal of Mr Mizan and Mr Ramly comes amid rumours that Mr Azmin's camp would boycott the Dec 5-8 national congress in Melaka. The Straits Times understands that his faction has also been planning various moves to boost its grip on the party ahead of the congress, having won the majority of leadership positions last year against those aligned to Mr Anwar.
The Anwar-Azmin battle has raised doubts over whether the former will eventually take over power from Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, as agreed by PH leaders prior to their shock win in the May 2018 general election.