In the month of marriages, Umno may ‘divorce’ Zahid
KUALA LUMPUR: While December is a month when Malay couples get married and hold their wedding receptions, a Malay political party is looking at 「divorcing」 its president instead.
And certain quarters believe that the said president, Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, has 「consented」 to part ways with the party, Umno, before the year is over as he accepts the 「divorce」 terms, detailing a clear road map for his political future and position, which has been drawn up by senior party leaders.
A veteran Umno member of parliament told the New Straits Times that 「this is the only way forward for Umno」.
「This is something that Zahid and other Umno MPs can agree on,」 he said, claiming that 98 per cent of the 48 Umno MPs have agreed to it.
A party insider said the move, which had been in the pipeline for the past few weeks, has gained the support of a majority of the party’s Supreme Council members.
The NST had in recent months reported on efforts to oust Zahid, but this had come to naught as senior leaders and Supreme Council members had refrained from making the move for fear
of a backlash. However, this current move is said to be in full gear.
「One senior leader has gathered about 30 MPs. They have made progress in the past few weeks. When will it (the move to oust Zahid) take place? Your guess is as good as mine,」 he said, adding that most of those involved in the plan are Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s loyalists.
Another long-serving MP corroborated the move to remove Zahid, but said that not one, but several moves are being engineered by leaders.
「Yes, it is true that one senior leader has 30 MPs with him, but everyone knows there is another senior who has the support of 38 MPs. They are bound to collaborate as most of the MPs are the same people.
「At the end of the day, these MPs will decide whether Zahid stays or leaves. They (the MPs) are the ones representing the party and the people in Parliament,」 he said.
He said many leaders in the party want Zahid to step down as he had projected Umno negatively.
「We know there are those against this (Zahid’s removal), but we have to accept what the majority wants,」 he said.
Political analyst Dr Sivamurugan Pandian said if it is true that Zahid is willing to leave, it will prove that 「he wants to save Umno. It will also allow him to focus on his (money-laundering) charges as well, making way for someone else to assume his role in the party.」
However, he said, Zahid needed to be cautious because every move he makes could jeopardise the party, which needs to unite to remain relevant.
Many, he said, had been critical of Zahid as he had failed to show the direction forward.
「Since May 9, he has been struggling to show leadership,」 he said.
The Universiti Sains Malaysia professor said many scenarios and theories are being bandied about, including on MPs planning to jump ship and the establishment of a new party.
He said these actions could actually create more crises in Umno and, as such, it is better for the leadership to set a clear goal before entering 2019.
「There are lots of rumours going around and these rumours can become real, but they can also create camps in the party.
「There’s a lot of uncertainty, but it depends now on what they want to do with the party. They say everyone has his own numbers, but for a better 2019, make it clear where all these efforts are headed,」 he said.
He believed, however, that Umno needs a more solid proposal.
Sivamurugan said if Umno MPs are planning to be independents, they need to chart their next course of action as they would not want to be forced to stand alone in case no other party want to take them in.
Dr Oh Ei Sun from the Asian Strategy and Leadership Institute said Umno, with its sizeable party assets and also a large number of MPs, is still a viable party.
However, he said, the party needs to first distance itself from what is popularly viewed as extremism, such as aligning with the theocratic past and also fanning racial and religious sentiments. Umno also needs to rejuvenate itself by installing young and progressive leaders.
「Getting rid of old faces is a baby step towards rejuvenating the party. Zahid has to either step up to show some leadership or step back,」 he said.
In contrast to Zahid, he said former party president Datuk Seri Najib Razak seems to be back in his trained economist mode, trying to marshall figures and numbers to counter the new government’s policies.
However, he said, it is clear Najib will not replace Zahid either as both of them are mired in court cases.
He thinks Rembau MP and former Youth chief Khairy Jamaluddin could be the chosen one to helm Umno as others 「were not charismatic enough」.
However, a handful of other MPs claim to be in the dark about this development. It could also mean that they do not want to talk about it, for fear that it would not happen.
Umno vice-president Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob said 「no」, while Pontian MP Datuk Seri Ahmad Maslan said there is no need to act in such a manner, when asked about it.
Ahmad described it as 「rumours created by those unsatisfied about losing the presidency.
「There are those who refuse to accept that they have lost and others have won,」 he said.
Those in Zahid’s circle have neither confirmed nor denied that such a plan is in the works, but said their boss knows what he is doing.
「He (Zahid) has been positive and happy for the past few days. Let’s hope it stays that way,」 one said.
Then again, a 「divorce」 with a favourable 「separation agreement」 can put a smile on anyone’s face.