Umno may have pulled handbrake, but ‘this is no normal movie, more of a Netflix series’

Right after Umno president Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi announced earlier this morning that the party had withdrawn its support for Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin, the first question that came to mind was: Does this mean that Perikatan Nasional (PN) is no more?

Not exactly.

This is due to the many cracks within Umno. There are senior leaders who are pro-Muhyiddin because of their positions in Cabinet, and senior leaders with no positions in government but who are fighting for the interests of the party. And then, there are those who are scrambling to find the right alliances that would serve their own interests once the dust settles.

The schism within Umno widened further after Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin, in a tactical move, named Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob as deputy prime minister and Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein as senior minister just hours before the Umno Supreme Council meeting last night.

While Ahmad Zahid repeatedly used the words “failed government” in his speech following last night’s meeting, not once did he speak about Umno leaders letting go of their cushy Cabinet positions. He knows that those already enjoying the perks of being in the Cabinet would not simply agree to throwing in the towel and handing over the power that comes along with the job.

Attorney-General Tan Sri Idrus Harun, in a statement today, said “there is no clear fact to show that the prime minister no longer has the support of the majority of the MPs”.

“Based on Article 43(2)(a) of the Federal Constitution, the way to determine if a person has got the support of the majority or not, is through the MPs, and not a statement made by a political party or any political leader.

“As such, and in accordance with the law, the prime minister and his Cabinet remain to carry out their Federal executive powers.”

What Ahmad Zahid did was to show that:

  • Umno is (supposedly) concerned about the welfare of the people by highlighting that PN had failed – despite some of its members forming part of the current government.
  • Umno (supposedly) holds the bargaining chip and wants the government to start listening to the party.
  • Ismail Sabri isn’t (supposedly) that influential within the party, as despite being made deputy prime minister hours before last night’s Supreme Council meeting, the senior leaders still went ahead and turned their backs on Muhyiddin.

But the Umno leaders can’t just walk out overnight as they will then be held responsible for the collapse of a government during the Covid-19 pandemic.

“Imagine if the instruction was for Umno members to leave the Cabinet immediately. What will happen to the vaccination roll out (where Umno’s Khairy Jamaluddin is the coordinating minister)?” said a senior Umno Supreme Council member.

“I know people expected Umno to just pull out, but we have to be sensitive to what’s going on at the moment – the pandemic.

“Let’s put it this way… this is not a normal movie. It’s like a Netflix series with many more episodes and seasons to come.”

It is understood that senior leaders in the party were also displeased that:

  • Umno was no longer consulted over major decisions made by the government. As such, their leaders were unable to explain or justify the decisions made by the PN government, to their supporters.
  • PN was a reactive, instead of a proactive, government.

“Why was the decision to make Ismail Sabri made hours before the Supreme Council meeting? If there was any sincerity, the post would have been given to Umno from Day 1,” said another senior Umno member.

“The National Recovery Plan was also another example. It was only announced after the Yang di-Pertuan Agong spoke about the need for such a plan. And it’s the same with the reconvening of Parliament.

“It’s a very reactive government.”

The Yang di-Pertuan Agong had decreed – three times since February – for Parliament to reopen. It was only recently that the government finally agreed to hold a special sitting in the august House, starting July 26.

There had also been calls for Umno to get its house in order, which included for Ahmad Zahid, who is being dogged by court cases, to step down.

Federal Territories Minister Tan Sri Annuar Musa, an Umno man, today claimed that Ahmad Zahid, had failed to explain the Supreme Council’s “true position” and had instead, read a statement which had been prepared before last night’s meeting – showing that the rift between senior leaders is real.

The only way forward is for Muhyiddin to once and for all, show that he truly has the support (and numbers).

Till then, this impasse would continue to drag and create an unnecessary diversion as Malaysia’s battle against Covid-19 rages on.

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