Tuesday, January 26, 2021

Umno leader goes solo in frantic bid to shore up support for Anwar?

Source claims there has been lobbying by a senior politician ahead of a crucial budget vote.

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A high-ranking Umno politician opposed to Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin has broken ranks with fellow leaders in pressuring MPs from the Malay party to sign statutory declarations in support of Anwar Ibrahim, MalaysiaNow has learnt.

This comes ahead of a crucial Dewan Rakyat vote on Thursday which could decide the future of the Perikatan Nasional (PN) government.

It is learnt that the leader, seen as still wielding influence in Umno, met a group of MPs from the party at a hotel in Kuala Lumpur last week in an attempt to convince them to topple Muhyiddin.

“But there has been no success, at least not yet, in getting the MPs to support the PKR leader,” a source from Umno told MalaysiaNow on condition of strict anonymity.

MalaysiaNow could not independently verify the claim, and as such has decided not to identify the leader.

Last month, former Umno president Najib Razak and his successor Ahmad Zahid Hamidi wrote a joint letter to the Yang di-Pertuan Agong expressing their support for Anwar to be named as prime minister.

“There has been no success, at least not yet.”

The letter was sent in time for Anwar’s audience with Sultan Abdullah Sultan Ahmad Shah, but the PKR leader failed to submit the names of MPs whom he said supported him in his plan to bring down Muhyiddin’s government.

Following outrage by Umno leaders over the move, Zahid issued a statement declaring a political ceasefire and renewed his support for Muhyiddin.

Najib, who is facing multiple corruption charges in addition to being convicted over a RM46 million transaction linked to 1MDB, has made no secret of his support for Anwar.

Najib and Anwar also appeared to take a common narrative in criticising the budget tabled on Nov 6, with both leaders saying their support depends on the government allowing larger EPF withdrawals and a blanket extension of the bank loan moratorium.

Any failure by the government to get the 2021 budget passed this Thursday could mean the collapse of the eight-month-old PN administration.

That scenario could trigger pandemic-season snap polls which health authorities have warned against, as it is highly unlikely that Anwar would be able to amass the numbers needed in the Dewan Rakyat to form the government.

The palace had previously warned MPs to put aside their political differences and ensure that the budget’s crucial financial allocations for frontliners in the battle against Covid-19 are approved.

Meanwhile, the same source told MalaysiaNow that during a meeting at a hotel last week, MPs were confused by the “aggressive” campaign by the said leader.

“People will know who opposed the budget, so the Umno MPs are not going to cave in to the pressure from the influential leader.”

“They pointed out that Zahid had already reaffirmed Umno’s commitment to the PN bloc,” it added.

Many of the MPs were also not ready to be seen as going against the palace’s repeated reminders to stop politicking in order to focus on battling the spread of Covid-19.

“This is especially so as the voting this week is not confidential, and those who oppose will be known.

“People will know who opposed the budget, so the Umno MPs are not going to cave in to the pressure from the influential leader,” the source said.

While there has been no clear indication of how opposition MPs will vote, it is understood that the budget could still be passed.

The last time such a vote took place was on a government motion to replace the Dewan Rakyat speaker, which the ruling bloc won by a two-vote majority.

This time, it is understood that Umno and PAS have reached an agreement to support the budget bill, with efforts underway to get Warisan and Pejuang to ensure it is passed.

This comes in the wake of a call by Barisan Nasional secretary-general Annuar Musa for the three Malay-based parties – Umno, Bersatu and PAS – to form a “grand coalition”.

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