Anwar Ibrahim, the Malaysian opposition leader fighting sodomy allegations, said he is in a race against time as repressive measures are used to thwart his attempt to topple the ruling party.
In an interview with The Daily Telegraph, Dr Anwar acknowledged that he now only has days to act before his political momentum seeps away amid efforts by the government to prevent a challenge.
The former British colony, once seen as an "Asian Tiger" economy, is controlled by a semi-authoritarian government that imprisons its opponents without charge and strictly controls the media. For decades elections consistently returned giant majorities for the regime.
But the government stumbled to its worst ever election results this March. Now the public is gripped by an all-or-nothing drama as the leader of the resurgent opposition, Anwar Ibrahim, claims he has won over the 30 government MPs he needs to topple the prime minister Abdullah Badawi and the ruling party for the first time since independence from Britain half a century ago.
"We have a problem here because we have the numbers but we can't move," Dr Anwar said.
For the first time this year, the Malaysian parliament has taken a break for Ramadan, which Mr Anwar regards as a "pretext" to prevent a vote of no confidence.
Earlier this month three journalists and an opposition MP were arrested under powers that allow for detention without trial "to protect national security". Three of the detainees have since been released, but last week the prime minister called Anwar a threat to the economy and national security.
"When they say that I am a threat ... then all the rationale for detention is there," said Mr Anwar. "The threat has effected many of our MPs. The threat is working somewhat."
Analysts, and even government supporters, agree that the administration is deeply unpopular because of perceived corruption and a weakening economy.
Dr Anwar was a reformist deputy prime minister 10 years ago when he was arrested, savagely beaten and jailed on sodomy charges that were later exposed as politically motivated.
He is due in court on Wednesday to face fresh sodomy allegations. Dr Anwar says the charges, which could send him to jail for 20 years in the Muslim majority country, are once again politically motivated. He has produced photographs of his accuser meeting government officials to support his claim.
Meanwhile there are moves in the United Malays National Organisation, which controls the government, to remove Mr Badawi as prime minister and replace him with his deputy Najib Razak, who is seen as a hardliner.
On the sidelines of an opposition strategy meeting Kamaruddin Jaffar, the leader of one of the parties in Dr Anwar's opposition coalition, said: "Things are moving fast. If Najib comes in it will be a different ball game." The opposition has asked for a meeting with the prime minister and called for an emergency session of parliament. Both requests were refused. Now, according to Mr Kamaruddin, they intend to ask the king to intervene.
"I'm not ruling out that option," Dr Anwar said.