Leadership gulf in Umno widening

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Within Umno, the gulf between party leaders supportive of Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin’s government and the rest of the supreme council members appeared to be widening.

This was apparent during Umno’s pow-wow about its political future in Janda Baik, Pahang, last Friday.

Izzrafiq Alias/The Star

While Umno has not officially revealed the outcome of the meeting, several Umno supreme council members who spoke to Malaysiakini gave varying accounts of what transpired.

One camp painted Umno president Ahmad Zahid Hamidi as trying to bulldoze a decision to cut ties with Perikatan Nasional (PN) but Zahid’s inner circle denied this, claiming that it was a narrative perpetuated by those in the opposite camp who were worried about their government positions.

An Umno supreme council member who spoke to Malaysiakini on the condition of anonymity said a fellow council member, who is also a minister, had tried to float the position of deputy prime minister to make the case for sticking with PN.

The minister had said that Umno stood to lose RM600 million in special allocation if the deputy prime minister spot went to Bersatu’s Azmin Ali.

Reflecting the gulf between Umno ministers and the rest of the supreme council, the source referred to them as the “ministers cluster”.

“There were four from this ministers cluster who spoke in favour of Umno to continue cooperating with Bersatu.

“But their efforts were not well received by other Umno supreme council members, so no vote was taken,” the Umno supreme council member told Malaysiakini.

He also accused the minister of coveting the deputy prime minister post.

He said the discussion ended after Zahid pointed out that the position of deputy prime minister was never conveyed to Umno, be it in writing or verbally.

In October last year, Umno ministers were also put in a spot after they backed Muhyiddin’s decision to request an emergency proclamation only to later find their party taking an opposite position.

This upset Muhyiddin who took Umno ministers to task for their party’s apparent flip-flopping.

Yesterday, another Umno supreme council member on the opposing camp claimed Zahid “used his power” to reject cooperation with Bersatu and PN.

The source who spoke on condition of anonymity accused Zahid of going against the majority decision of the supreme council.

However, the supreme council member aligned to Zahid who Malaysiakini spoke to today disputed this as no vote was taken on the matter.

“The issue of Zahid using his veto power to cut ties with Bersatu in the 15th general election does not arise as there was no vote, therefore there wasn’t a majority or minority decision.

“The meeting merely reaffirms the position of 147 Umno division chiefs and 118 divisions which had proposed that Umno reject cooperation with Bersatu in the 15th general election.

“However, Umno MPs will support the PN government until the 15th general election,” he said.

He added that Umno will inform Muhyiddin of the supreme council’s decision in a letter.

Despite the varying accounts from both camps, one common point was that Umno indeed plans to cut ties with Bersatu at the right time.

Sources privy to the supreme council meeting last Friday said Umno planned to snub any offer of the deputy prime minister position and sever ties with PN when the emergency proclamation expires in August. There is no indication yet if the emergency will be extended.

Muhyiddin is expected to call for a general election when the emergency is lifted. He had lost his majority in the Dewan Rakyat and will need the numbers to pass Budget 2022 in October.

Umno’s strategic communications division had downplayed comments aired publicly about the supreme council’s position, stating that the public should only rely on official statements from the party.

However, Umno has yet to release an official statement on the supreme council’s decision. – Malaysiakini