Sources say embattled PM may strike deal to let Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein take over post once Parliament sits
KUALA LUMPUR : As Malaysians continue to complain about the government’s shoot-and-miss pandemic response, Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin and Foreign Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein are thinking about what is in store for them.
The former, his legacy. The latter, his future.
Although his Perikatan Nasional administration is struggling to contain Covid-19 and repair a battered economy, Muhyiddin is holding on by the skin of his teeth to ensure he survives a no-confidence motion if it is tabled in Parliament.
He is not about to step down anytime soon, said those in the know.
“Doing so now will mean he is resigning as a failure. He wants a level of success in bringing down the number of infections and repairing the economy before he calls it a day,” said a source.
While Umno president Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi is planning to pull the party out of PN, Hishammuddin plans to strike a deal with Muhyiddin, according to insiders.
The Vibes had on June 11 reported that the foreign minister is gathering enough signatures in a bid to present himself as a candidate of the head of government.
The arrangement is for him to be named deputy prime minister and take over from Muhyiddin after Parliament convenes, and then appoint Datuk Seri Mohamed Azmin Ali as deputy prime minister.
Meanwhile, the 73-year-old Muhyiddin is battling his own health issues.
The Pagoh MP, who had survived pancreatic cancer, has been addressing gastrointestinal problems in hospital this past week.
While he has yet to be discharged, Muhyiddin managed to chair a special National Security Council meeting via videoconference yesterday.
This is a clear sign that he means business, even as his health issues persist.
Despite his best attempts to keep Parliament closed, Muhyiddin finally succumbed to pressure by the Yang di-Pertuan Agong, who decreed that emergency ordinances and management of the pandemic must be discussed in the august House.
The emergency declared on January 12 with the intention of bringing down Covid-19 cases has not been successful, with more than 6,000 cases a day and 5,574 deaths to date.
Azmin, on the other hand, is said to be ironing out the kinks in his relationship with Datuk Seri Hamzah Zainudin to reach a consensus that will keep Bersatu and Umno supporters happy.
This includes ministerial positions in Hishammuddin’s possible cabinet, as well as government-linked company heads and even ambassadorships to the likes of France and Switzerland.
It is learnt that Hamzah is the kingmaker in Bersatu, and his say-so dictates the party’s support on any potential leadership scheme.
Azmin is one of the chief architects of the Sheraton Move that ended Pakatan Harapan’s 22-month stint in government in February last year.
As Parliament is scheduled to sit on July 26, the clock has started ticking for the Hishammuddin-Muhyiddin deal and whether it will go through.
If neither Bersatu nor Umno MPs reach an amicable agreement by then, Muhyiddin is expected to continue his tenure as prime minister until next year, assuming that the pandemic is well and truly under control.
However, if Hishammuddin is successful in his Azmin-backed pursuit, he is expected to serve as the country’s ninth prime minister until Parliament automatically dissolves in 2023.
In the meantime, irrespective of the outcome between the two politicians, Umno insiders have tipped Hishammuddin to challenge Zahid for the president’s post when the party announces its next polls.
Despite the former’s denials and lack of grassroots support, party sources continue to indicate an increasing possibility of him succeeding Zahid in the long run.
That said, the days leading up to the reconvening of Parliament may be drizzled with more drama.