Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob has hit back at claims by DAP that he is issuing “flip-flop” statements in calling for the next general election, maintaining that the prerogative for the polls ultimately lies with the Yang di-Pertuan Agong.
“It’s good that I ‘flip-flop’ so that they will not know when the general election will be held,” he told reporters today, adding that none of the prime ministers before him had announced the date of general elections, in order to catch the opposition by surprise.
“If you asked Dr Mahathir at that time, he would say ‘I haven’t got inspiration’,” he said.
“If I announce earlier, DAP will be happy as it could make early preparations.”
Ismail has been facing pressure from a group of Umno top brass, especially its president Ahmad Zahid Hamidi and former leader Najib Razak, to dissolve Parliament to make way for the 15th general election, which is not due until May next year.
But the prime minister, who came to power on the back of support from non-Barisan Nasional (BN) MPs such as Perikatan Nasional and GPS, reiterated that he would only call for an election after going through the proper channels including consultation with Cabinet members.
“The Cabinet will give me the mandate to have an audience with the Agong to advise him. The ultimate decision rests with the Agong.
“Under the constitution, the Agong can either accept or reject (the recommendation to dissolve Parliament),” Ismail said today, adding that he respected the Agong’s powers.
“I cannot give the exact date. It is constitutionally wrong for me to fix a date. If I did that, I would be pre-empting the Agong. Perhaps DAP’s way is not to respect the Agong, but I respect the Agong,” he said after attending a World Environment Day celebration at the Taman Tugu forest park.
This is the second time that Ismail has appeared to ward off pressure from Umno leaders urging him to call for a general election, in the hope that the party could repeat its winning streak in several previous state polls.
Many observers believe that the clamour for elections by Umno leaders has to do with their impending court cases, where those in the so-called “court cluster” group including Zahid and Najib face hundreds of corruption charges involving billions of ringgit.
The group was also behind the proposal to postpone party polls until after the general election, seen as a move to stop Ismail’s rise in the party leadership.
Unlike the tradition followed during the previous BN era, Ismail became prime minister despite not being the Umno president.
Earlier this week, vocal Umno veteran and Padang Rengas MP Nazri Aziz said the move to stop party elections was to keep Ismail from becoming the president.
Nazri said the present Umno leadership could lose if party elections were held now.
As for the general election, Nazri said ordinary Umno members are against any move to call for polls at this time.
“They don’t want an early election,” Nazri told MalaysiaNow. “They are honest people who have also been affected by what is going on.
“It is only the court cluster and those who lost at the last election who want another one now.”