Though both Mahathir and Anwar have often reiterated that the transition of power between them would proceed as promised, claims of plots and counterplots being hatched beg the question if the nation would witness a repeat of the 1998 episode.
- Hishammuddin, Hamzah, Redzuan and Azmin met recently to discuss plans to keep Mahathir in office
- Ongoing “horse-trading” to retain Mahathir until end of his tenure in exchange for “immunity” from prosecution
- Hisham only has the support of a few Umno MPs, Azmin has the backing of 18 PKR MPs
- Hamzah determined to ensure that Anwar, who he accused of harassing his wife back in 1998, does not become PM
- Plan is for Azmin and Hishammuddin to lead the nation after Mahathir steps down
Earlier this week, Pakatan Harapan dropped a bombshell accusing Hishammuddin Hussein of plotting to form a new government sans DAP and Amanah.
Hours earlier in the Dewan Rakyat, PKR president Anwar Ibrahim also hinted that Hishammuddin was working behind the scenes when urging BN MPs not to be rattled by threats of prosecution.
Although the former Umno vice-president dismissed this allegation or that he wanted to prevent Anwar from becoming the next prime minister, sources, however, claimed otherwise and revealed that Hishammuddin is working with those within Harapan as well.
When Malaysiakini spoke to multiple sources from both sides of the political divide, three names surfaced – Bersatu’s MP for Larut Hamzah Zainuddin, Bersatu’s Redzuan Yusof, who is also entrepreneur development minister, as well as PKR number two and Economic Affairs Minister Azmin Ali.
Previously it was alleged that Hishammuddin facilitated Hamzah’s defection from Umno to Bersatu in February. Hishammuddin had denied this allegation.
According to a senior Bersatu source, the two are now working to ensure Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad serves his full term in office instead of passing the baton to Anwar as per the agreement in Harapan prior to the last general election.
“There is ‘horse-trading’ ongoing,” the source told Malaysiakini.
“The idea is to retain Mahathir until the end of his tenure in exchange for ‘immunity’ for some who are facing or will face prosecution except for (former premier) Najib (Abdul Razak) and (Umno president) Ahmad Zahid Hamidi,” he added.
To date, no charges have been brought against Hamzah or Hishammuddin.
Hishammuddin was embroiled in controversy over land swap deals in the Defence Ministry when he helmed the portfolio during BN’s time but has denied any wrongdoing.
A ranking PKR source, meanwhile, claimed that Hishammuddin, Hamzah, Redzuan and Azmin met recently to discuss plans to keep Mahathir in office.
The four are now said to be canvassing support from both ruling and opposition lawmakers. At this point, it is unclear if any PAS leader is involved.
PAS president Abdul Hadi Awang had previously lent his support to the call for Mahathir to remain in office. The Islamic party has 18 parliamentary seats.
“MPs from PKR and Umno were approached. We confirmed with both sides before raising this issue. Those who revealed this to us are those who didn’t sign (a statutory declaration to support Mahathir),” the PKR source added.
The source alleged that Hishammuddin only has the support of a few Umno MPs whereas Azmin secured the backing of 18 MPs from PKR.
‘Hisham’s personal initiative’
Padang Rengas MP Nazri Abdul Aziz, when contacted, said if Hishammuddin was engaged in such negotiations, it would be the latter’s “personal effort” and not a party initiative.
“That is his problem, it is his personal effort. As far as I am concerned, whatever the party leadership decides, I will support, but it will be for the supreme council to decide,” he added.
On a personal note, the former culture and tourism minister said he supported Anwar on the basis of friendship and because the latter was an “extraordinary politician.”
Previously, when he was BN secretary-general, Nazri pledged Umno’s support for Anwar to be the next prime minister albeit without becoming part of the government.
On Wednesday, Umno vice-president Ismail Sabri had also distanced the party from Hishammuddin’s alleged plot.
Umno sources alleged that Hamzah is determined to ensure that Anwar does not become the prime minister but did not reveal the reasons.
In 2008, Hamzah had accused Anwar of harassing his wife back in 1998.
The PKR president sued the Larut MP for defamation but withdrew the suit in 2013 after both sides reached an amicable and private settlement.
There was speculation that Hamzah had quit Umno partly due to efforts within the party to align themselves to Anwar.
Meetings on Malay Dignity
The Bersatu source told Malaysiakini that Hishammuddin and Hamzah met with Mahathir last month, around the same time when the Malay Dignity Congress took place.
Hamzah is said to have played a key role in organising the congress. However, its secretariat chief Zainal Kling claimed the Larut MP’s role was just to ensure that Mahathir attended the event.
On Sunday, Hishammuddin penned a comment, which was published by several media organisations, calling on Malays to unite across political lines without sidelining other races.
In an NST article the next day, Redzuan said he had been in communication with Hishammuddin on the need to create a ‘Bangsa Malaysia’ led by Malays.
“To unite Bangsa Malaysia, Malays must unite first. After that, the question would be who will lead this Bangsa Malaysia. Is it the Chinese, Indians, Malays or Orang Asli?
“To me, Malays, as the majority race must lead Bangsa Malaysia. I proposed this idea to Hishammuddin and he agreed to it,” he said.
Quizzed about this in Parliament yesterday, the minister reiterated the need for Malays to be united under one “gagasan” (movement) and to lead Bangsa Malaysia.
Pressed on whether forming a new government was also part of his discussions with Hishammuddin, he appeared to ignore the question and responded in a vague manner, saying: “This is my personal opinion, there is a need for us to rethink, to shape the future of Malaysia.”
In a separate conversation with Malaysiakini, Redzuan denied being in a meeting with Hishammuddin, Hamzah and Azmin to discuss Malay unity or keeping Mahathir in power.
Azmin and Hisham combo
As for Azmin, it has long been speculated that Mahathir and his inner circle preferred him to be the next prime minister instead of Anwar.
Ranking sources from both Umno and PKR claimed that the alleged plan is for Azmin and Hishammuddin to lead the nation after Mahathir steps down.
However, Hishammuddin denied this.
“He (Mahathir) has never said that to me,” he told Malaysiakini.
Likewise, he said there were “no such meetings” with Hamzah, Redzuan and Azmin with regard to Malay unity or ensuring Mahathir remained at the helm.
Mahathir’s communication and media advisor A Kadir Jasin told Malaysiakini that he was not aware of any recent meetings between the premier and Hishammuddin.
However, he said that anyone is free to meet the prime minister.
“Any Malaysian has the right to see the prime minister, irrespective of their political affiliation or leaning, because he is the prime minister of Malaysia, he is not the prime minister of any particular party,” he added.
This is not the first time Hishammuddin has been alleged to be part of political machinations involving Mahathir.
Previously, Umno disciplinary board chairperson Mohamed Apandi Ali claimed that Hishammuddin was under investigation and this was believed to be over his meetings with Mahathir.
However, Hishammuddin and other party leaders denied there is such a probe.
GPS does not care who is in power
The information gathered from Malaysiakini’s sources indicate that even if all MPs from Bersatu (27), BN (40), and PAS (18) unite with 18 Azmin-aligned PKR lawmakers, as well as three Gabungan Bersatu Sabah MPs and two independent MPs, this will only translate to 108 seats.
This is four seats shy from the 112 needed to form the government.
To ensure the move is a success, its architects would require the support of lawmakers from Warisan or Sarawak’s GPS. Warisan has nine seats and GPS 18.
GPS secretary-general Alexander Nanta Linggi told Malaysiakini that to his knowledge, none of the coalition’s MPs have been courted as yet to support Mahathir serving his full term.
“But if they spoke to individual MPs, then I don’t know,” he said.
He said GPS is not concerned about who is the prime minister or whether Mahathir should serve his full term.
“Whether it is Mahathir or Anwar, we don’t care too much. We want the government, regardless of the leader, to govern the country well and stick to the Harapan manifesto,” he added.
GPS also has a non-coalition ally in Parti Sarawak Bersatu, which is part of the state government and has one MP seat.
Meanwhile, Labuan MP Rozman Isli – who defected from Umno to Warisan last year – said he has not been approached.
Bersatu’s move to set up a chapter in Sabah despite an understanding with Warisan that it would not do so could prove to be a stumbling block in winning over MPs from the party led by Chief Minister Mohd Shafie Apdal.
Warisan also has a non-coalition ally in Upko, which has one MP seat as well.
Azmin’s office and Hamzah have not responded to Malaysiakini’s requests for comment.
Though both Mahathir and Anwar have often reiterated that the transition of power between them would proceed as promised, claims of plots and counterplots being hatched begs the question if the nation would witness a repeat of the 1998 episode? – Malaysiakini