Ahmad Zahid Hamidi’s about-turn today came on the back of strong protest from Umno leaders who gathered at the party headquarters in Kuala Lumpur to discuss a letter he sent to the Agong expressing support to Anwar Ibrahim, MalaysiaNow has learnt.
The Umno president’s call for a “political ceasefire” was also seen as preparing the party for a proposal to postpone party elections due to be held next year.
This afternoon, there was tension at the Putra World Trade Centre, with many state Umno chiefs angry at their top leader for unilaterally backing Anwar’s plan to topple the Perikatan Nasional government, of which Umno is a part.
“Zahid has sensed a movement to oust him, and as a result issued the statement to assuage the growing anger,” one of several individuals who attended the nearly four-hour meeting of top Umno leaders told MalaysiaNow.
Zahid’s statement calling for a “political ceasefire” came days after the revelation that he and his predecessor Najib Razak had written to the Agong to back Anwar as prime minister.
The former deputy prime minister, who is facing multiple corruption charges, also claimed that “a number of Umno MPs” would back Anwar to topple Muhyiddin, but did not give details of the MPs in question.
The revelation sent shock waves through the Umno leadership, with several leaders including key Umno ministers distancing themselves from Zahid.
But in his statement today, Zahid said his party would now help the Perikatan Nasional (PN) government focus on rebuilding the economy in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic.
“The cooperation of all parties in PN should be strengthened in order to ensure political stability at a time when the country is faced with the threat of Covid-19 and economic uncertainties,” he said.
“Zahid has sensed a movement to oust him, and as a result issued the statement to assuage the growing anger.”
It is learnt that today’s meeting was held after pressure from state Umno leaders, who have been waiting for an explanation from Zahid since the contents of his letter to the Agong were revealed by MalaysiaNow last week.
The party’s Supreme Council meeting was however postponed twice after several parts of the country came under conditional movement control order, making it difficult for leaders to travel to Kuala Lumpur.
“Zahid hoped that his statement urging Umno to focus on the fight against Covid-19 would calm the state liaison chiefs,” the same source said.
Earlier today, MalaysiaNow reported that Zahid could be among some half-dozen Umno leaders facing corruption charges who could derail next month’s budget.
A person privy to intense discussions among officials weighing options to avoid a pandemic-season general election said there were fears that the group of MPs could trigger the collapse of the government by not voting to pass the budget.
Meanwhile, a source said Zahid is planning to propose that the Umno elections due next year be shelved.
In the last party polls in 2018, the first in 30 years that Umno had held for its top posts, Zahid defeated former Youth chief Khairy Jamaluddin and veteran leader Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah, to fill the presidential seat vacated by Najib following his fall from power.