Umno’s subtle return to power

Now, all eyes are on Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin and his next step

IF Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin steps down tomorrow, Umno will once again hold the mantle of power, three years after it was defeated in the 2018 general election.

Besides the party pulling out of the ruling Perikatan Nasional after a four-hour emergency meeting last night, the Umno Supreme Council and president Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi also called on Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin to step down honourably and make way for a new prime minister.

Zahid reasoned that this is because Muhyiddin’s government has failed to realise the aspirations of the people in controlling the Covid-19 pandemic and resuscitating the economy.

It will be interesting to see how Muhyiddin reacts, and whether he will be drawn to retract the promotion of Senior Minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob as deputy prime minister and Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein as senior foreign minister.

With these two appointments, Muhyiddin, who has been unwell, responded to criticism over a lack of a succession plan.

The appointments will also allow for stability when the country needs it most, in the midst of a pandemic that has taken almost 6,000 lives.

As passionate debates were held at Menara Dato Onn on whether Umno should accept the appointments or go with Zahid’s call to leave PN, party leaders wonder if this is the best chance Umno has of resetting itself.

It could be Muhyiddin’s master stroke of creating more confusion in Umno as the party has been given a path to return to the top, with the only person in the way of an Umno prime minister being Muhyiddin himself.

Granted, it is a mouth-watering prospect for any politician to be on the cusp of power, and Umno vice-president Ismail Sabri will be hard-pressed to resist supporters’ calls to not take up the offer.

Umno’s subtle return to power – The Vibes
Umno president Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi is being told by some quarters that leaving Perikatan now would be counterproductive, given that the prime minister himself is creating a path for the party to return to power. – SYEDA IMRAN/The Vibes pic

Similarly, Hishammuddin, who is not even a Supreme Council member, may see this as his best chance to follow in the footsteps of his late father Tun Hussein Onn, the country’s third prime minister.

As for Zahid, he will be pushed into a corner by certain party members, as he is being told by some quarters that leaving PN now would be counterproductive, given that Muhyiddin himself is creating a path for Umno to return to power.

Both Ismail Sabri and Hishammuddinissued statements expressing their gratitude over their appointments. But could these statements be regarded as an indication of acceptance?

If they accept, would they be expelled from Umno and then join Bersatu, only to have their positions short-lived as Bersatu is expelled in the next elections?

Would it be more prudent for them to give up their appointments and stay in Umno as a reflection of their loyalty to the party, and be rewarded after the 15th general election?

In any case, the next few days will determine whether this is PN’s Waterloo, or for Muhyiddin, at least a successful last-ditch attempt to cling on to power and repair his legacy.

Umno president Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi says the new prime minister must call a general election after the country attains herd immunity against Covid-19, so as to have a stable government in place. – SYEDA IMRAN/The Vibes pic

One thing for sure is that Umno has always proven that despite the numerous crises in its 75-year history, the party has more lives than a cat, where every setback is temporary.

However, with a changing electorate and political landscape, the challenge is to learn from the harsh lessons of these last three years and ensure that Umno does not become the same party rejected by the people in GE14


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