Tuesday, December 7, 2021

Najib finds safe haven in PM Ismail as he steers clear of Zahid

While the former prime minister and the Umno president previously presented a united face, Najib has decided that he can only survive by joining hands with Ismail Sabri Yaakob.

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A long-simmering fallout between two top leaders in Umno now threatens to play out in the open despite their close cooperation in engineering the downfall of Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin’s government two months ago, a senior party leader has revealed to MalaysiaNow.

It is said that Umno president Ahmad Zahid Hamidi and his predecessor Najib Razak, who were united by their legal fate in facing dozens of corruption charges following their downfall three years ago, have now split after the latter decided that “he could only survive by joining hands with Ismail Sabri Yaakob”.

“The prime minister is also actively looking for allies in his quest for the Umno presidency, so Najib’s support system within Umno is crucial,” said the source who is based in Pahang.

“It is a win-win arrangement for as long as Ismail is prime minister. The next one year leading to the general election will see a solid cooperation between him and Najib,” it added.

Ismail was among the Umno leaders who resisted Zahid and Najib’s campaign to topple Muhyiddin, staying put in the government despite a psywar to get Umno MPs to revoke their support for the Bersatu president.

Despite his earlier defiance which saw him gathering Umno and Barisan Nasional Cabinet members to stop any attempt to bring down the Perikatan Nasional government at the height of the pandemic, Ismail obtained support from Zahid and Najib after an earlier plan to install Anwar Ibrahim faltered due to a failure to muster support from Umno MPs for the PKR chief.

The source said Najib understood Ismail’s incumbency as prime minister and the impact it would have on Umno leaders.

“This is an era where you control the party by first controlling the government, unlike a few years ago when controlling Umno was the path to becoming the prime minister. Najib understood that, which is also why he is abandoning Zahid who appears to be the weakest Umno president in the party’s history,” it said.

Najib, who is appealing to quash a conviction for seven high-profile charges related to RM42 million from 1MDB-linked SRC International, has no choice but to throw his support behind Ismail’s bid to take over Umno.

Ismail achieved the rare reputation of becoming prime minister even though he is only one of three vice-presidents of the party.

Umno has postponed its election for its top posts to sometime towards the end of 2022, a move criticised by anti-Najib party leaders who occupy ministerial posts under Ismail, such as Khairy Jamaluddin and Reezal Merican Naina Merican.

It also got the party into problems with the Registrar of Societies which ruled a decision on July 7 this year as invalid as the Umno Supreme Council had already reached the expiry of its term a week earlier.

Zahid, who beat Khairy for the top post in 2018, has been a strong proponent for a delay in polls as he continues to face rebellion over a myriad of issues, including his corruption, money laundering and criminal breach of trust cases, his secret deals with Anwar and his refusal to cooperate with other Malay-based parties in the upcoming Melaka state election.

“All these negative vibes about Zahid will translate into misfortune for Najib, as both are seen as one team. They both supported Anwar, they both waged war against PN and they both have their personal freedom hanging in the balance.

“So Najib’s only strategy is to switch sides and support the prime minister of the day,” the source added.

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