Three-way split in Umno out in the open, say analysts

PETALING JAYA : A startling revelation by Padang Rengas MP Nazri Aziz, who declared himself the “mastermind” behind a clandestine move has made it clear that Umno has now split into three factions, say political analysts.

Former Universiti Sains Malaysia lecturer Ahmad Atory Hussain said the three groups comprised the “court cluster”, Hishammuddin Hussein’s supporters which includes 16 MPs, and another group backing Umno adviser Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah, better known as Ku Li.

Nazri had claimed earlier today that the majority of Barisan Nasional (BN) MPs have lost confidence in chairman Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, and had instead signed statutory declarations (SDs) backing BN treasurer-general Hishammuddin to represent them before the King.

Nazri also admitted that he was the brains behind the SDs signed by 25 of the 41 BN MPs.

Atory added that Nazri’s move to collect SDs was also an open move to pressure Zahid to resign from his position in the party.

Analysts say Umno is now split into three with the court cluster which includes president Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, 16 MPs supporting Hishammuddin Hussein and another group behind Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah.

“Nazri’s action is considered as appropriate because Zahid, who wrote a letter in support of Anwar Ibrahim as prime minister, did not consult with the Umno Supreme Council. He had worked in secret despite denying his involvement,” he told FMT.

Atory added that Zahid’s action in supporting Anwar was also opposed by Tengku Razaleigh who suggested that disciplinary action be taken against him.

He said the move made by Nazri was also to deny any attempt to appoint Anwar as prime minister.

“However, Nazri’s action has temporarily saved the political career of Muhyiddin Yassin as prime minister, at least until he asks the King to dissolve Parliament,” he said.

Salawati Mat Basir from Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM) felt that the latest pressure on Zahid clearly showed that he was no longer the man to lead Umno.

“Zahid should step down because he is no longer relevant to lead Umno, but the old factions are still defending him for some reason.

“If the leadership in Umno is not changed, the party might face another defeat in the general election,” he said.

Former academic Azmi Hassan felt Nazri’s action to appoint Hishammuddin was a relatively weak one, compared to Zahid’s efforts to support Anwar as Hishammuddin did not have strong support in the party.

Azmi also said there was a split in Umno, with many opposing Zahid.

“But for me, one of the possible reasons for the split is Zahid’s own leadership, which is said to be quite shaky,” he said.

Azmi added that Zahid’s decision to work with Anwar was a political strategy because the PKR president was more popular than other leaders.

“Umno supporters strongly reject Anwar and this makes any open cooperation impossible. However, whether the Zahid-Anwar strategy is successful or not depends on how they go through this obstacle,” he said.

Another political analyst Azizuddin Mohd Sani said he did not see Umno members punishing Zahid despite various pressures.

“I do not see Umno members wanting to punish the president, the status quo remains,” he said.

Earlier today, Nazri said he was the “mastermind” who worked on collecting the SDs but clarified that the SDs were not meant to back Hishammuddin for the post of prime minister, but were meant to communicate to the King the BN MPs’ stand about working with Anwar.

BN currently has 41 MPs, comprising 38 Umno MPs and one each from MCA, MIC and PBRS.

By : Faiz Zainudin – FMT

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