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Zahid needs to be DPM to stabilise Anwar's govt, say analysts

They say this would allay any dissatisfaction in the Umno Supreme Council.

Ahmad Mustakim Zulkifli
2 minute read
Umno president Ahmad Zahid Hamidi during the announcement of Barisan Nasional's candidates for the 15th general election.
Umno president Ahmad Zahid Hamidi during the announcement of Barisan Nasional's candidates for the 15th general election.

Umno president Ahmad Zahid Hamidi should be appointed as deputy prime minister in Anwar Ibrahim's Cabinet despite still facing a slew of criminal charges in court, analysts say as the political uncertainty continues in the wake of the Nov 19 general election. 

Political observer Azizi Safar said such a move would satisfy the Umno top brass and lend stability to the government led by Pakatan Harapan (PH) and Barisan Nasional (BN). 

"If Zahid is appointed as deputy prime minister, there will no longer be feelings of dissatisfaction within the Umno Supreme Council as their president will have been given the number two post in the government," he said. 

If Zahid is made Anwar's deputy, as is being widely speculated, it would be the second time he is given the post. 

He was previously the deputy prime minister in Najib Razak's Cabinet, after Muhyiddin Yassin was sacked for speaking out about 1MDB. 

Muhyiddin went on to form Bersatu together with former prime minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad. 

Zahid aside, Anwar is expected to appoint another deputy prime minister from Gabungan Parti Sarawak in order to represent Borneo. 

Umno has been seen as lobbying for Zahid to become deputy prime minister for reasons of party hierarchy and political cooperation. 

This is despite the Umno leader still facing 47 charges related to the misuse of funds from charity foundation Yayasan Akalbudi.

Umno secretary-general Ahmad Maslan had said that appointments to the Cabinet should be in line with the hierarchy of positions in parties, while Johor Umno deputy chairman Nur Jazlan Mohamed said PH owed Zahid.  

Azizi, a former executive secretary for Penang BN, said Anwar should steer clear of appointing Umno deputy president Mohamad Hasan – the other name being bandied about in talk about the new Cabinet. 

"Unlike Zahid, Mohamad has no experience in the federal Cabinet, so it doesn't make sense to appoint him as deputy prime minister," he said. 

The previous government led by Ismail Sabri Yaakob was also marked by instability as he was the first Umno vice-president to be appointed as prime minister. 

The situation had led to a split between the court cluster led by Zahid and the Putrajaya cluster in support of Ismail, who eventually came under intense pressure to dissolve Parliament and make way for a snap election. 

Analyst Jeniri Amir of Universiti Malaysia Sarawak agreed that Zahid should be made Anwar's deputy as without the Bagan Datuk MP, the PH leader would not have obtained the support needed to become prime minister. 

"He is the party president. He should be accorded a place in the Cabinet as deputy prime minister," he said, adding nonetheless that Zahid should be gracious if this does not materialise. 

"The people don't care which party the ministers are from as long as they are capable," he said. 

"Anwar's hands should not be tied by parties who want their leaders to be included in the Cabinet. 

"As long as the parties in the government keep making all sorts of demands, we will remain stuck in a loop when what we really want is a world-class Cabinet."