KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 28 — Regardless the outcome, Kedah Umno’s bid to remove Datuk Seri Mukhriz Mahathir as mentri besar will likely only end up hurting the ruling party’s image, several observers said.
Political analyst Khoo Kay Peng said Umno could have avoided bad publicity by keeping the matter private and resolving it internally by sidelining Mukhriz in the next general election.
He pointed out that the attempt to unseat Mukhriz came about suddenly and had not been instigated by the public, making it clear that the ouster was due to factional politics within Umno.
“It is definitely not turning out in Umno’s favour because the move is not generated by public complaints or even based on Mukhriz’s performance. It is clearly a purge from inside the party, trying to get rid of a vocal leader,” he told Malay Mail Online when contacted.
"At least if they waited until the next elections and voiced their dissatisfaction internally, his removal from the post would have just been a part and parcel of nominating candidates.”
Khoo also pointed out that Mukhriz’s removal would have been inevitable as without the support of his men in the state executive council, he would have merely stayed on as a “lame duck MB”.
As such, he said Mukhriz’s term as MB would have been short-lived, ending once the next general election is called.
“Mukhriz can continue, but for the next two years he would be a lame duck MB. He wouldn’t have control of his exco.
“And when election time comes, he would have a tough time getting himself nominated,” he said.
Dr Lim Teck Ghee of the Centre for Policy Initiatives (CPI) said recent controversies plaguing the federal government have already left Umno scarred.
The Kedah crisis, he said, would only worsen public perception of the ruling party.
“It has the potential of spiralling out of control for Umno's reputation, solidarity and unity nation-wide, especially when linked with the 1MDB and political donation issues," he said, referring to the 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) and RM2.6 billion political donation controversies.
“The damage will not be confined only to Kedah which we can see is divided already into pro and anti-Mukhriz factions.”
Professor Shaharuddin Badaruddin of Universiti Selangor said the damage the Kedah crisis would have on Umno was largely because Mukhriz was one of the few reasons why Umno recaptured the state in Election 2013.
“He was one of the reasons people had shifted their voting patterns. He was part of a new image for Umno.
“But now when they try to remove one of the factors that helped them in 2013, and just only after two years of his term, it will definitely jeopardise Umno’s image,” he told Malay Mail Online.
Speculation has been rife that Mukhriz would be removed as Kedah MB by the end of this week, with news reports claiming there would even be a dress rehearsal yesterday for the swearing-in ceremony of his would-be successor.
But Kedah state executive councillor Datuk Tajul Urus Mat Zain later refuted the rumour, saying it was untrue, and that there has been no indication yet as to when the new Kedah MB would be appointed.
“Not true. The dress rehearsal was for the recipients of awards,” he told Malay Mail Online yesterday.
News of the bid to oust Mukhriz first made media headlines last Wednesday when Kedah Umno deputy chief Datuk Seri Ahmad Bashah Md Hanifah led a delegation of 14 Umno division chiefs, state and federal lawmakers to express their loss of confidence in the leader and their wish for his removal.
Among the reasons given for their discontent was Mukhriz’s purported failure to govern the state, to unite the party and his lack of strategy to face the next general elections due 2018.
Both Mukhriz and Ahmad Bashah have met with Datuk Seri Najib Razak separately since then, but the Umno president and prime minister has yet to announce any decision on the matter.
For now, Kedah’s politics remain in a state of flux with some claiming on the one hand that the anti-Mukhriz faction may not have the numbers to remove the leader while others are confident that the first-term mentri besar will be shown the door by week’s end.