In Westminster-styled democracies, the Prime Minister is usually the leader of the dominant party.
Until late 2021, Malaysia could count itself among them, but not any more.
Faced with multiple corruption charges, UMNO’s No.1, Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi was unable to step in as Prime Minister when the preceding administration led by Bersatu’s Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin fell in August 2021.
Instead, Datuk Ismail Sabri Yaakob, an UMNO No.3 who ascended to the Premiership.
On the same note, Zahid has also refused to stand aside as UMNO President, despite calls from certain factions within his party urging him to do so.
Outward appearances between Zahid and Ismail have been cordial, with the Prime Minister recently describing Zahid as a “good friend and a brother”.
But MalaysiaSentinel.com has recently learned that in the wake of Najib being sent to jail, those aligned to the ‘court cluster’ are feeling the heat.
“Zahid knows the ins and outs of politics. He will not fall for such trickery. Such brotherly statements from the PM means nothing until his (Zahid’s) cases are dropped,” said an UMNO veteran close to a few UMNO Supreme Council members.
”Najib has gone to jail. It is a clear warning from Ismail to those bent on destabilising his government.”
He added, UMNO’s grassroot leaders aligned to Zahid have recently put forth certain demands to Ismail.
“The first, do something to drag Najib’s case. Second, drop the charges against Zahid. Third, call for GE by October.”
Elaborating on Ismail’s recent interview claiming that the date of the General Election will be discussed among UMNO’s Top 5, the veteran who is also an UMNO Division leader in Pahang said that Ismail is doing lip service to appease angry UMNO members.
“This discussion will not happen. PM is saying so to appease angry supporters who symphatise with Najib and Zahid.”
“At the end of the day, Ismail will make a call that benefits him solely. This is true blue UMNO culture. There is no love, only interests.”
The term ‘UMNO Top 5’ refers to President Zahid, Deputy President Datuk Seri Mohamad Hassan and the three Vice Presidents namely Ismail, Datuk Seri Mahdzir khalid and Datuk Seri Khaled Nordin.
Elaborating on the dynamics between the UMNO Top 5, the veteran said that Zahid could lose his grip on the party if there is a change in the alignment of the Top 5 leaders.
“Ismail is one faction. He has access to government resources and machinery. The one clearly aligned to him is Mahdzir Khalid.”
“President (Zahid) is another faction. Tok Mat is a nice man while Khaled is with Najib.”
“Since Najib is in jail, it is possible for Khaled to switch camp.”
“If Khaled realigns with Ismail’s group, then Zahid is clearly outnumbered and Mohamad Hasan will just follow the majority.”
When asked of Zahid’s possible stunt if pushed to the brink, the veteran said that Zahid holds a trump card, which is the power to decide candidates representing UMNO in GE15.
“President has the final say on who would contest representing UMNO in GE15. He is the one signing the ’surat watikah pencalonan’.”
“This trump card may work for or work against President (Zahid). He (Zahid) could drastically reduce candidates deemed to be aligned to Ismail, thereby weakening Ismail’s position.”
“But because there are many ‘hantu’ within UMNO, this could also mean that the candidates who appear to be supporting Zahid may eventually switch to Ismail’s camp upon being elected.”
The veteran also said that Ismail has his own trump card, which is to force Zahid to relinquish party powers, if push comes to shove.
“If that happens, Zahid will not be able to decide who contests in GE15. But we will see if Ismail is able to command the Top 5 and force Zahid aside.”