Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin may give some form of concession to Umno in his power-sharing deal, although short of increasing the Malay party’s share of the Cabinet as demanded by a faction of MPs led by its president Ahmad Zahid Hamidi.
A source privy to private conversations between Umno leaders said while the decision will not weaken Muhyiddin’s position, it will neutralise the faction of veteran Umno leaders eager for a “better deal” in return for agreeing to be part of the Perikatan Nasional (PN) government.
This follows the failure of Zahid’s plan to galvanise fellow Umno MPs into quitting the PN government in the wake of the revelation that he had unilaterally expressed support for Anwar Ibrahim, who has been ratcheting up his claim of possessing the numbers needed to topple Muhyiddin.
But Anwar is still viewed with suspicion within Umno circles.
“His long alliance with DAP means that any support for the PKR leader, even for some hidden agenda, will be frowned on by the party,” said the same high-level source in Umno who told MalaysiaNow about the joint letter to the palace written by Zahid and his predecessor Najib Razak.
On Friday, MalaysiaNow reported that Zahid and Najib in their letter to the Yang di-Pertuan Agong had not only expressed support for Anwar, but claimed that “a number of Umno MPs” would back the PKR leader’s plan to topple Muhyiddin as well.
“That move has angered many senior party leaders,” the source told MalaysiaNow.
One concern is that Umno is split between a faction led by Zahid, and another larger faction that wants the current Cabinet composition to remain until the time is ripe for a general election.
“There are worries that any backdoor negotiations by leaders embroiled in corruption cases could lead to Umno losing everything they currently have,” the source added, using a Malay expression “yang dikejar tak dapat, yang dikendong berciciran” (losing everything while in pursuit of something more).
Leaders who have been campaigning for a greater share of powerful posts for Umno are mostly from the “old guard”.
While their numbers might not be many, they have been enough to warrant media attention.
One of them, Pasir Salak MP Tajuddin Abdul Rahman, said Umno could “find new friends” if it quits Muhyiddin’s PN alliance.
“If Umno quits PN, we have two choices: to find new friends to rebuild our political strength, or to go it alone outside the government as an opposition party,” Tajuddin told MalaysiaNow’s Fazreen Kamal in an interview on Saturday.