Tuesday, April 20, 2021

Zahid, from BN heavyweight to dead weight?

Questions arise over the political future of Zahid Hamidi, who is facing a slew of criminal charges and the repercussions of several recent moves seen as having backfired.

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Political analysts are predicting a bleak future for Barisan Nasional (BN) chairman Ahmad Zahid Hamidi despite his years of leadership, saying he has become a burden on the coalition as well as its lynchpin party Umno following several recent moves seen as having backfired.

They referred to a media statement bearing Zahid’s name released on behalf of BN in the wake of its Supreme Council meeting on Thursday evening which was found to be nearly identical to another issued by Pakatan Harapan (PH) chairman Anwar Ibrahim after PH’s top leadership meeting that same night.

They also cited Umno’s decision to end its political cooperation with Bersatu, the party led by Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin, once Parliament is dissolved.

Speaking to MalaysiaNow, Shamsul Amri Baharuddin of Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM) said Zahid was now a burden on everyone, especially the Malays and Umno.

“It is becoming increasingly clear that Zahid is prioritising his own interests through his many schemes, including writing to the Agong in support of Anwar, turning his back on Umno and even lying to the party,” he said.

“That was a very disappointing move.”

Shamsul, the founder of UKM’s Institute of Ethnic Studies, said Zahid should step down as Umno president and hand over his duties to his deputy, Mohamad Hasan.

“It is becoming increasingly clear that Zahid is prioritising his own interests.”

Zahid currently faces 47 charges in court: 12 for criminal breach of trust, eight for bribery and 27 for money laundering involving tens of millions in funds from Yayasan Akalbudi.

His statement on Thursday, several paragraphs of which corresponded word for word with that of Anwar, was seen as further confirmation of both leaders coming together in their efforts to topple Muhyiddin.

Among others, it called for the Dewan Rakyat to convene during the emergency period. However, BN component parties MCA and MIC distanced themselves from the statement, saying no such decision was made.

The coalition later said it had suspended its chief media officer, adding that the statement was released without approval from the top leadership.

BN executive secretary Mohamad Sahfri Ab Aziz also said the statement did not reflect the decision reached by coalition leaders who had met following Umno’s decision not to cooperate with Bersatu in the next general election.

Hisommudin Bakar, the executive director of Ilham Centre, said Umno’s letter sent by Zahid confirming the decision of its top leadership to end political ties with Bersatu had tarnished the party’s image.

“There may be attempts to oust him from the party.”

“The statement on behalf of BN urging the Agong to call for a Dewan Rakyat sitting was not agreed to by its component parties,” he added.

“This erodes Zahid’s credibility as BN chairman.”

Kamarul Zaman Yusoff from Universiti Utara Malaysia agreed that Zahid’s political prospects were becoming dim.

“The move by some to dispute the statement by Zahid as Umno president or BN chairman has raised questions about his position,” he said.

Kamarul said the wide publicity surrounding Zahid’s corruption case had also tarnished his credibility as well as Umno’s.

“There may be attempts to oust him from the party,” he added.

But he said all questions leading up to Umno’s true direction would be answered at its general assembly at the end of the month.

“According to the Umno constitution, the highest power lies with the general assembly. Anything can happen at this assembly, which could see the election of a new party leadership.”

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