Saturday, September 25, 2021

Zahid nominates himself as PM in bid to convince party that Umno will return to driver’s seat

The Umno president's move comes amid a general reluctance by MPs to back the opposition's plan to topple the government.

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Umno president Ahmad Zahid Hamidi has offered to nominate himself as the prime ministerial candidate in the event that the upcoming vote of confidence in Muhyiddin Yassin succeeds in toppling the latter, MalaysiaNow has learnt from two party insiders.

A senior party source said Zahid announced the matter to Umno MPs during a closed-door meeting in a bid to convince them that he would not back any leader outside the Malay party in the plan to exit the Perikatan Nasional (PN) government.

Out of Umno’s 38 MPs, only 15 are said to have backed Zahid’s call to revoke support for prime minister Muhyiddin.

The source said Zahid had pledged to persuade MPs from Sarawak’s GPS as well as from PAS and Bersatu to boost the numbers to allow Umno to “return to the driver’s seat of the government”, in an apparent reference to a speech by Zahid’s deputy Mohamad Hasan during the Umno general assembly in March.

“This is why the likes of Noraini Ahmad and Shamsul Anuar Nasarah were willing to resign from their positions in government,” the source said, referring to two ministers from Umno who quit the Cabinet.

“They believe that Zahid will succeed and that they will be given better positions in his administration.”

Yesterday, a PKR office bearer revealed that opposition blocs outside of the Pakatan Harapan (PH) coalition were against any attempt to name Anwar Ibrahim as prime minister.

This appeared to be confirmed by Umno secretary-general Ahmad Maslan, who said Zahid had “sworn” not to support Anwar for the top post.

Zahid alongside former leader Najib Razak have been at the forefront of a campaign to get Umno MPs to renounce their support for the PN government.

The duo had even supported Anwar, the PKR president, for the top office last year in a letter addressed to the Yang di-Pertuan Agong.

Zahid and Najib have been slapped with multiple corruption charges involving millions of ringgit of public funds and a charitable organisation.

MalaysiaNow previously detailed meetings that Zahid had with Muhyiddin, in an attempt to get his charges dropped, something the prime minister recently confirmed.

But another source said that Zahid was now sceptical of whether Anwar would be able to dispose of the corruption cases against him due to the presence of DAP in the PH coalition.

“Zahid also knows that Anwar cannot do as he pleases to release him because the leaders in DAP like Tony Pua will not stay silent,” the source told MalaysiaNow.

“So to encourage Umno MPs to rally around him, Zahid has assured them that he will be the prime minister.”

Pua, the Damansara MP who was among the most vocal opposition MPs denouncing Najib’s role in the 1MDB scandal, recently warned that any vacuum caused by the collapse of PN would be filled by Umno, allowing the party to return stronger at the next general election.

He said while the opposition might have its best chance to get back at Muhyiddin, who was among the key leaders who engineered the downfall of the PH government, his replacement could be from Umno.

“And when any Umno leader becomes PM, wouldn’t all the kleptocrats be set free (or possibly even regain power)?” Pua asked, in an apparent reference to Umno leaders from the so-called “court cluster” who are facing multiple corruption charges.

Muhyiddin has assured that his position as prime minister will be determined by a confidence vote in the upcoming Dewan Rakyat sitting next month.

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