Ahmad Zahid Hamidi will use the 2021 Umno general assembly which begins today to pressure Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob to dissolve Parliament in order to pave the way for the 15th general election (GE15), analysts say days after Barisan Nasional’s (BN) victory at the most recent in a string of state polls.
They also predict that the calls by Zahid, the Umno president, will gain momentum among the representatives of the country’s largest Malay party.
The general assembly which runs from March 16 to 19 was pushed forward from last year.
Umno also chose to postpone its party election, scheduled to be held in November this year.
Analyst Mujibu Abd Muis said that Ismail, who previously dismissed what he called calls from “one small group”, would be left in a dilemma.
“This is the trouble with Umno people – they’re too used to the party president being the prime minister,” Mujibu, of Universiti Teknologi Mara, told MalaysiaNow.
“In this context, the party hierarchy is the core so the post of prime minister is pushed aside.”
He added that Ismail appeared more friendly towards Perikatan Nasional (PN) than towards Umno, which believes that it should be in the position of leadership.
If Ismail gives in to calls for the dissolution of Parliament, it would make him the shortest serving prime minister in the history of Malaysia.
And should BN emerge victorious at GE15, chances are slim that he will be named for the top post once more.
Zahid himself has said that BN’s “poster boy” will be determined by the party at a later point.
The Umno president previously said that GE15 should be held before or by July this year.
Observers believe that he is looking to shore up his position before the party elections in November.
The Bagan Datuk MP is also facing 47 criminal charges.
If both GE15 and the Umno elections are held while his trials are ongoing, Zahid may not be able to defend his position.
Umno secretary-general Ahmad Maslan at a press conference on Monday did not deny the possibility that a proposal on GE15 would be brought up at the general assembly.
A total of 5,571 delegates are expected to attend the assembly: 959 from the women’s wing, 971 from the youth wing and 961 from the Puteri wing.
Mujibu said Zahid, who is BN chairman, has the authority to sign letters confirming election candidates.
He said there was a possibility that Zahid would not nominate Ismail in his seat of Bera if calls for the dissolution of Parliament go unheeded.
“I see no efforts from Umno to suggest him as prime minister,” he added.
He said this comes against a backdrop of the Umno leadership appearing to prefer a solo approach, without working with any other coalition whether PN or Muafakat Nasional.
Ministers from the party who are seen as friendly with PN, meanwhile, might also be affected by the general assembly, he said.
Mujibu sees this edition of the assembly as a lobbying field for those who wish to contest GE15.
The previous general assembly had witnessed an open rebellion between Zahid and Umno ministers.
Ismail, who was defence minister at the time, described it as “the worst”. He also attacked Zahid’s closing speech, and questioned Zahid for attacking Umno Cabinet members in the wake of the president’s call to cut ties with Bersatu.
Awang Azman Awang Pawi of Universiti Malaysia however said that both sides would keep quiet or seek to ease the conflict following the Johor menteri besar issue.
“Not just the president, but the prime minister also needs to settle this issue,” he told MalaysiaNow.
“If the prime minister aids in this matter, the clash between Zahid and Ismail will not be too bad.”
Machap assemblyman Onn Hafiz Ghazi was sworn in as menteri besar yesterday, replacing Hasni Mohammad who was previously chosen by Zahid for the position.
Hasni, who is Johor BN chairman, however said that a young candidate should be chosen to lead.
Azman said the Umno general assembly could also be expected to debate cooperation with PAS ahead of GE15, as the opposition itself would likely form a wider pact in order to face BN.
“If there is a need for this, it must be based on the sentiments and voice of the majority of delegates,” he said.
“If not, it must still have the support of the delegates.”
Mujibu meanwhile said that the developments in Johor would to some extent influence the direction of the assembly.
“Umno was forced to face internal conflict in Johor which could affect the integrity of its leaders, especially from the aspect of the old guard against the new faces.
“The menteri besar issue will also have an effect.”