Umno veteran Mohamed Nazri Aziz today said he believed that Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob would be elevated to party president if Umno elections are held at the end of the year.
The Padang Rengas MP said this was not out of the question given Umno's track record in which those who are appointed as deputy prime minister are made deputy president at the party polls.
At the moment, he added, Ismail was not even the deputy prime minister but the prime minister.
"Logically, if we have party elections this year, he should be the president," he said at a forum with the ISEAS Yusof Ishak Institute in Singapore.
"I mean, the president of the party does not necessarily have to be the prime minister in the present circumstances because we have to get the support of our coalition.
"For example, like Zahid today. He is the president. Why is he not the prime minister? For obvious reasons, right, there are cases in court," he added when asked if Umno president Ahmad Zahid Hamidi could be defeated if party elections are held in the near future.
A number of Umno members had previously called for the party to speed up its polls instead of calling for an early general election.
The latter move has been seen by analysts as part of efforts to save leaders embroiled in court cases including Zahid and Najib Razak.
Nazri said if Umno chose to maintain Zahid as party president in the event that elections are held, the situation would not change as he cannot be appointed as prime minister.
In May, Umno amended its constitution to allow party elections to be held a maximum of six months after a general election.
Nazri said the understanding of the amendment was that the party would have to elect a new president and delegation instead of adding another 18 months to Zahid's presidency.
When asked what would happen if the results of the Umno polls remain favourable towards the court cluster, he said this would depend on the secret ballots cast by the delegates.
He said Umno members rarely spoke up but would express themselves through their votes.
"They don't like to speak up," he said. "When votes are secret, I think they will do the right thing.
"They don't have to say anything. They just vote. That's it."