Muhyiddin ditching Azmin, Zuraida

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Had Azmin remained loyal to PKR, he might have become the deputy prime minister today.

Azmin Ali and Zuraida Kamaruddin were two of the top PKR leaders (People’s Justice Party), not to mention the rising stars before they stunningly betrayed the party. Their betrayal led to the collapse of the democratically-elected Pakatan Harapan (PH) government in March 2020. Azmin and Zuraida were the party’s deputy president and vice-president respectively before their defections.

Having tasted blood for the first time, both (former) PKR leaders could not return to the opposition. And despite having screamed “Reformasi” for more than 20 years, they willingly betrayed not only fellow PKR comrades but also allies and friends because the temptation of being in power was too irresistible. But in their haste for power, they had overlooked one problem.

What’s next after joining Muhyiddin Yassin, another despicable traitor who simultaneously pulled Bersatu or Malaysian United Indigenous Party out of the PH government? Azmin and his band of 10 PKR defectors did not join Muhyiddin’s party until August 2020, some five months later. Meaning it was a reckless decision without consideration for a long-term political solution.

At least Mahathir Mohamad, who abruptly resigned as prime minister after his trusted lieutenant (Muhyiddin) and blue-eyed boy (Azmin) betrayed Pakatan Harapan, was smart enough to make a U-turn as he refused to work together with crooks like former prime minister Najib Razak and UMNO chief Zahid Hamidi. Mahathir knew the consequences at a later stage.

Portfolio-wise, there’s little difference whether Azmin and Zuraida jumped ship to become traitors in Muhyiddin’s Perikatan Nasional backdoor government, or were to remain loyal in the legitimate Pakatan Harapan government. Azmin’s portfolio as Minister of Economic Affairs when he served under Mahathir was roughly the same as his current Ministry of International Trade and Industry.

Zuraida, who was the Minister of Housing and Local Government under the previous Mahathir administration, had been given the same portfolio under Muhyiddin regime – until her demotion to the Ministry of Plantation Industries and Commodities under the current Ismail Sabri government. Hence, Zuraida has actually lost more after her betrayal.

Azmin, who desires to become the youngest Malaysian prime minister by hook or by crook, has been elevated as a Senior Minister during both Muhyiddin and Ismail governments. Still, a senior minister is not a deputy prime minister. Worse, to prevent threat and competition, four senior ministers were created – diluting the importance and prestige of the post.

During the Mahathir administration, Azmin was treated better than deputy prime minister Wan Azizah. In fact, in his divide-and-rule manoeuvre, Mahathir had deliberately given so much power to Azmin that his blue-eyed boy was seen as the man being groomed as an alternative to PM-in-waiting Anwar Ibrahim. It was a classic political chess piece to put Anwar and Azmin at loggerheads.

On paper, Azmin appeared to be the second man to Muhyiddin. But in reality, Muhyiddin did not trust Azmin the same way Mahathir had trusted Azmin. As a traitor himself, Muhyiddin knew how much a traitor like Azmin can be trusted. Home Minister Hamzah Zainudin was, therefore, positioned to check and balance Azmin’s power and influence in Bersatu.

What’s Azmin position in Bersatu? He and his loyalist Zuraida have no official ranks in Muhyiddin’s party. Both were “appointed” by the Bersatu president as the party’s supreme council members in September 2020. But they were appointed so that Muhyiddin could preserve his power in his fragile government. In comparison, Hamzah holds the powerful secretary-general position.

Now that the disgraced Muhyiddin is no longer the powerful prime minister, Azmin and Zuraida’s value drops like a rock. Threatening to leave Bersatu now will not work because the Perikatan Nasional government had collapsed when Muhyiddin was forced to resign in August 2021. To add salt to injury, Azmin also cannot blackmail the new government of Ismail Sabri.

The MoU (Memorandum of Understanding) signed between the Sabri government and the Opposition means the Azmin-Zuraida team has absolutely no trump card to play. It did not help that the United Malays National Organization (UMNO) faction – Court Cluster – is desperately looking for a snap national election after the upcoming Johor state election.

In short, Azmin and Zuraida are trapped as they had never imagined the Perikatan Nasional backdoor government would collapse in just 17 months, shorter than Mahathir’s so-called chaotic 22-month administration. And the current lame-duck Ismail Sabri is expected to last even shorter than his predecessor – most likely less than 12 months – if UMNO wins big at the Johor polls.

The collapse of Perikatan Nasional also saw the waning power of Bersatu president Muhyiddin. Heck, the ex-premier dares not even defend Gambir, the seat that he won in Malaysia’s 14th General Election in 2018, for fear of suffering a humiliating loss. Muhyiddin, born as Mahiaddin Yasin, is so busy hiding that he couldn’t care less about Azmin and Zuraida.

With Mahiaddin’s coalition on the path of self-destruction after an expected total annihilation in the upcoming Johor state election, Azmin and Zuraida again have to migrate. A majority of Bersatu’s supreme council members reportedly have agreed to sack Zuraida days ago due to her link to the newly formed party, Parti Bangsa Malaysia (PBM), a backup plan hatched by Azmin-Zuraida.

The fact that Muhyiddin was chairing the meeting when the decision was made to fire Zuraida spoke volumes about not only splits in the party but also a deep distrust for the Azmin-Zuraida faction. The only reason Zuraida has yet to be sacked is because the party wanted her to quit and be seen as a serial traitor, while Zuraida wanted to be sacked so that she could cry being victimized.

However, Bersatu managed to humiliate Zuraida by kicking her out of its supreme council members’ WhatsApp group. The move was a warning to Azmin, who quickly and cowardly pledged his loyalty to the party’s president – thrice – during the recent supreme council meeting. Azmin’s fear is understandable – the PBM new party is too weak and irrelevant.

The PKR traitors had initially wanted to take over Gerakan, but it was not possible for the party to “surrender” the presidency to Azmin at a snap of a finger. They then joined Bersatu, only to face an equally ambitious Hamzah, who also wanted to become the next premier. Eventually, the PBM was established, but it’s too late as a lot of time and resources have been wasted.

The process of recruiting members, building machinery and grassroots, as well as marketing and branding a new unknown party requires years of hard work, if not decades. Azmin-Zuraida’s mistake was indecisively weighing the options of taking over an existing established party (Gerakan), climbing the ladder of Bersatu, before ending up with PBM.

Even now, both Azmin and Zuraida are clueless what to do next, waiting to see the results of the Johor state election and the proposed anti-hopping law before making their next move. To hedge his bet, Azmin wanted to stay in Bersatu for now, hoping that Bersatu’s fortune would turn for the better. Zuraida, meanwhile, wanted to jump ship to PBM in anticipation of the demise of Bersatu.

Without their own power base, it’s hard to see how both PKR traitors could survive the next 15th General Election. The highly toxic Bersatu, tainted with treachery and treason, is too weak to compete with UMNO for the same Malay vote bank. At the same time, the extremist and radical PAS Islamist party, aligned to Muhyiddin’s Bersatu, is too toxic to attract the non-Malay vote bank.

Had Azmin remained loyal to PKR, he might have become the deputy prime minister today. Had Azmin and Zuraida remained as independent MPs and quickly set up their own party instead of joining Bersatu, they might not become homeless today. Had the PKR traitors followed Mahathir in rejecting Najib and Zahid, the voters might not hate them as much as they despise Muhyiddin.

Had Azmin-Zuraida joined Mahathir, who set up Pejuang, they might not be laughed at and played by UMNO’s faction led by Najib and Zahid, who withdrew their support for the Muhyiddin government. It’s flabbergasting how Azmin could fantasize an easier path to become prime minister in an over-crowded Malay-centric government when the PH coalition offered an easier choice.

Muhyiddin can choose to retire if his party is wiped out in both the Johor and nationwide elections. He has at least tasted the power of the Iron Throne. Where else can Azmin and Zuraida go if they are slaughtered like pigs by angry voters? Even the corrupt UMNO seems reluctant to accept a power-hungry traitor like Muhyiddin, let alone outsider traitors like Azmin and Zuraida. – Finance Twitter