Simmering discontent could morph into movement to oust Zahid

Umno leaders in govt face rising pressure to do something about party president’s decision to cut ties with PN.

For months, Ketereh MP Annuar Musa was perhaps the solitary voice to publicly challenge Ahmad Zahid Hamidi over the Umno president’s bid to end ties with Bersatu and Perikatan Nasional (PN) in the 15th general election (GE15).

But after the Umno general assembly last week, which affirmed Zahid’s position, party leaders in government are facing increasing pressure to do something about Zahid’s direction.

The conflict is a result of a growing gulf between Umno leaders facing graft charges who were sidelined for positions and party leaders who were appointed into government.

Both factions have labelled each other the “court cluster” and “minister cluster”.

Amid the tussle, Annuar raised eyebrows last Friday when he wrote a post on Facebook about Umno’s prime ministerial and deputy prime ministerial candidate for GE15.

In his post, he attached the pictures of three leaders – Bera MP Ismail Sabri Yaakob, Sembrong MP Hishammuddin Hussein and Arau MP Shahidan Kassim. The first two are ministers while the third is a government-linked company head.

Notably absent were Zahid and Mohamad Hasan who hold the Umno president and deputy president posts respectively, the two top party spots that traditionally would make them the prime ministerial and deputy prime ministerial candidates.

Calun PM TPM dari UMNO PRU15: Ramai yg tak putus putus bertanya siapa calun PM dan TPM dari umno PRU akan datang. Saya…

Posted by Tan Sri Annuar Musa on Wednesday, 31 March 2021

The duo could be ousted at the party election due in June, unless it is postponed, and that’s exactly what Zahid’s faction is trying to do.

Sensing the last chance to change Umno’s course slipping away, a growing number of Umno leaders including Khairy Jamaluddin, Shahidan and Annuar have pushed for the party polls to proceed.

The reactions have led to speculation that a movement is taking shape to oust Zahid in order for Umno to change course from its confrontational position against Bersatu and PN.

Something brewing

Awang Azman Awang Pawi, a political analyst with Universiti Malaya, said these developments suggest that the possibility of a movement to oust Zahid could turn into a reality.

“They (the minister cluster) know their advantage is their cabinet positions which allow them to make offers in terms of politics, machinery and mechanism to gain support.

“We can see that they are planning something,” he said but cautioned that it could lead to a split in the party.

Awang Azman pointed out that if the party election is going to be about democracy, the minister cluster would ask for the suspension of Parliament to be lifted – but they have not made any mention of this.

In contrast, he said the Umno election is far more challenging than a Parliament sitting as it will involve millions of members, thousands of branches and hundreds of divisions amid the Covid-19 pandemic.

“So it appears something is being planned with certain motives and that is becoming obvious with the call to hold the party election,” he added.

Umno must hold its election every three years and the next is due by June 30.

However, the Umno constitution allows for party polls to be postponed for up to 18 months and this provision has often been invoked when the party election is near the general election.

The general election may be called in August, when the emergency expires.

Shahidan, when contacted about efforts to oust Zahid, downplayed Annuar’s post as nothing more than a photo album.

Uphill battle for resistance

“I don’t know. We don’t know. We have not met.

“There is not yet an alliance. If there is one, I will let you know. If I have an alliance, I won’t be afraid to talk about it,” the Umno supreme council member said.

However, Shahidan promised a revelation.

“I will reveal my position soon. For now, I am with the Umno supreme council,” he added.

Meanwhile, political analyst Rusdi Omar did not think the dissent will turn into something substantive.

“Perhaps it’s just Annuar being upset and uncomfortable with the Umno leadership’s decision to cut ties with Bersatu in GE15,” he said.

Rusdi believed that the Umno party election will likely be postponed, which will scuttle any hope of resistance against Zahid.

Furthermore, Rusdi said the Bagan Datuk MP still has strong grassroots support despite the disagreements among party leaders.

However, he said Zahid should be “magnanimous” by allowing his deputy to be the acting Umno president while he deals with his graft charges.

Zahid’s presumed position as the prime ministerial candidate had been in doubt due to his ongoing court cases.

This has also led to concerns that Umno and BN may enter GE15 without a prime ministerial candidate.

Awang Azman said if the Umno election was to proceed, close contests are expected and those in government will be at an advantage.

He added that Umno leaders in government may also be concerned about being dropped as election candidates in the next general election if Zahid remains in power.

However, he said they will most likely be judged for their loyalty or rebelliousness.

Zahid has absolute discretion on who will become election candidates as long as he is the Umno president.

By : M FAKHRULL HALIM – MALAYSIAKINI

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