Sunday, February 28, 2021

Zahid’s ouster not impossible, says analyst

Umno is facing its own emergency with attempts to overthrow the president.

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The absence of a set of clear directions for Umno will mean more pressure on its president Ahmad Zahid Hamidi to quit, an analyst warns in the wake of an internal rebellion led by youth leaders calling for his removal.

Hisommudin Bakar, who heads public opinion pollster Ilham Centre, said Zahid was now on defensive footing and unable to adequately address the issues raised.

“If this situation continues, it is not impossible that the movement to overthrow him will succeed as he has failed to refute those who now openly oppose him,” Hisommudin told MalaysiaNow.

He said Zahid has to answer critics who believe that Umno cannot face an election without the support of PAS and Bersatu.

“This group also believes Umno needs to accept that the era of leadership under Zahid and Najib Razak is not enough to restore the confidence of the people, to return Umno to power as the ruling party.

“For them, Umno needs to acknowledge this shortcoming. It is no longer the dominant force that made it the largest ruling party. All that disappeared in the storm of the 2018 election,” he said.

Zahid and Najib lead a group of Umno leaders who say the party has been forced to play second fiddle to Bersatu in the Perikatan Nasional government.

“It is no longer the dominant force that made it the largest ruling party.”

The duo has been demanding more senior positions for Umno.

But there have also been confusing signals from Umno under Zahid about the party’s future in the ruling bloc.

Most recently, it said it had accepted the Agong’s consent for the declaration of the Covid-19 emergency, but is also requesting that the Agong call for parliamentary sessions.

Zahid has been under attack from senior party leaders and veterans.

At least three senior Umno Youth leaders have openly called for a shake-up of the party’s leadership, in an apparent move to back the protests against Zahid in what is seen as a growing disenchantment with their president’s move to support Anwar Ibrahim.

Federal Territories Umno Youth chief Mohamed Nizham Abdullah Hamidi said Umno’s top leadership must be revamped, while the wing’s leaders from Pontian and Seremban, Helmi Buang and Zool Amali Hussin openly called for Zahid’s removal.

“Some come, some go, from Dr Mahathir Mohamad before this, Anwar, Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah, Musa Hitam – but Umno has remained strong.”

A party old-timer meanwhile warned that Umno members were now better at observing the behaviour of their leaders thanks to technological advances.

“It was not like that before,” Othman Desa, who heads the Umno Veterans Club, told MalaysiaNow.

“People used to respect ministers and leaders but with technology, members are better at judging. Their thoughts are sharper, not like before.”

Othman, who once served as political secretary to former prime minister Abdullah Badawi, said Umno is more than the individuals in the party.

“Some come, some go, from Dr Mahathir Mohamad before this, Anwar, Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah, Musa Hitam – but Umno has remained strong,” he said.

Hisommuddin said Zahid’s detractors who also oppose any form of cooperation with Anwar and DAP had become increasingly aggresive after Annuar Musa was sacked as secretary-general of Barisan Nasional.

He said a rebellion is brewing in Umno, citing websites and online documents against Zahid, adding that Annuar is seen as the man behind the movement against Zahid.

He said Zahid’s move to cut ties with Muhyiddin Yassin’s Bersatu was also problematic, as it could not afford to lose PAS, which has said it is committed to working with the prime minister.

Hisommudin said the split in Umno was now serious and difficult to restore in the short term.

“Umno is facing the emergency in its own way,” he added.

Fazreen Kamal contributed to this report.

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