Dr Mahathir Mohamad today said Umno has grown weak under the leadership of Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, even as the latter comes under pressure over the appointment of a Bersatu man as Sabah chief minister.
In an exclusive interview with MalaysiaNow, Mahathir, who was Umno president himself from 1981 to 2003, said under Zahid’s leadership the party had split into various camps.
“Now Umno is divided. There is this faction and that faction. One faction says this, another says that. How will you lead Umno, which faction?” the former prime minister asked in an hour-long interview on a wide range of topics at his office at the Perdana Leadership Foundation in Putrajaya.
He named at least three Umno leaders heading factions in the party.
“Zahid has one faction, Hishammuddin Hussein has one faction, and Mohamad Hasan has one faction. This person says this, that person says that.
“What Umno do you want to be president of?”
Zahid’s leadership of Umno entered the spotlight after his failed attempt to put forward Sabah Umno chairman Bung Moktar Radin as chief minister, following Gabungan Rakyat Sabah’s (GRS) victory in the state election last Saturday.
Instead, Sabah Bersatu chief Hajiji Noor, Perikatan Nasional’s (PN) choice for CM who led an exodus from Umno in 2018, was sworn in despite protests from Zahid and a section of Umno leaders in the peninsula.
Bung himself publicly declared his support for Hajiji, rejecting suggestions of a rift within the new GRS government comprising Umno, PBS and Bersatu representing PN.
Last week, Zahid ruffled feathers between Umno and its closest ally PAS after he said their MPs were free to support PKR’s Anwar Ibrahim to oust Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin.
Anwar had earlier claimed to possess a “strong and formidable” majority to form the federal government.
“That is what Zahid says now,” Mahathir told MalaysiaNow.
“Before this, when he wanted to topple Pakatan Harapan (PH), he told me that Umno would join this new coalition en bloc. I did not accept that,” said Mahathir, referring to the political crisis early this year.
In efforts by Bersatu to form a new coalition after the fall of PH in February, Mahathir had rejected a pre-condition by Umno that its MPs would only join en bloc.
The move caused a fallout between Mahathir and Muhyiddin, both co-founders of Bersatu, with the former prime minister announcing the formation of a new political outfit called Parti Pejuang Tanah Air.