Malaysia's ruling coalition summoned top leaders for emergency talks on Thursday after a small party broke ranks and said it would table a no-confidence vote against Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi.
News of the unprecedented motion spooked investors amid fresh political uncertainties in the Southeast Asian nation.
Abdullah, facing the biggest challenge yet to his four-year-old leadership, is set to chair the meeting of Barisan Nasional's policy-making Supreme Council at 0630 GMT.
On Wednesday, Sabah Progressive Party (SAPP) dropped a bombshell, saying it would table a no-confidence vote against Abdullah on Monday in a move that could spark more revolt against the embattled premier.
This is the first time in Malaysia's history that a prime minister has faced the threat of a no-confidence vote from his own lawmakers.
Analysts said SAPP faced sacking, suspension or a stern warning for openly revolting against Abdullah.
"Sacking is an option but I don't think SAPP will be immediately sacked," said one analyst who declined to be named. "Otherwise, Barisan could be accused of not tolerating dissent."
The east Malaysian party, which has two members of parliament in the 14-party coalition, has little political clout but there are concerns this could spark a chain reaction from other Barisan members.
Abdullah has been under pressure to quit after the coalition that has ruled Malaysia since independence suffered its worst electoral setback in 50 years in March, losing its two-thirds parliamentary majority and surrendering five states to the opposition.
A challenge to his leadership from within the United Malays National Organisation (UMNO), the dominant party in the coalition, and a recent steep hike in fuel prices threaten to further weaken the prime minister's position.
Pro-government newspapers on Thursday threw their weight behind Abdullah, who has been quoted as saying SAPP's move was driven by its president Yong Teck Lee's "personal greed".
"Sabah MPs are Barisan in name, a little bit like migrant workers carrying Malaysian permanent resident cards whose authenticity remains questionable," The Star newspaper said. "Their hearts may be elsewhere."
Last Mod: 19 Haziran 2008, 18:06