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Small Malaysian Party Quits Ruling Coalition

A small Malaysian political party has announced its decision to leave the ruling coalition, in a blow to the embattled government of Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi.

Sabah Progressive Party president Yong Teck Lee Wednesday said his party will become independent, but stopped short of saying it would join the opposition coalition.

Opposition leader and former deputy prime minister Anwar Ibrahim is trying to rally lawmakers from the ruling coalition to defect and topple Mr. Abdullah's government.

The Sabah Progressive party only has two lawmakers and Anwar needs at least 30 legislators from the ruling coalition to defect if he wants to control a majority in parliament.

The decision by the party comes as Mr. Abdullah also suggested today that he may leave office before 2010, the year he had originally pledged to transfer power to his deputy.

Mr. Abdullah told a news conference today that he is committed to handing over his post to Deputy Prime Minister Najib Razak, but may leave office sooner than planned.

During the press conference, Mr. Abdullah says he is ceding the finance portfolio to Mr. Najib, who will turn over the defense portfolio to the prime minister.

Mr. Abdullah has come under increasing pressure ever since the ruling coalition lost its two-thirds parliamentary majority in the country's March general elections.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP and Reuters.