KUALA LUMPUR, July 8 — Tempers began to fray at tonight’s Umno supreme council meeting with much flak directed at president Datuk Ahmad Zahid Hamidi who is trying to pull the party from supporting the ruling Perikatan Nasional (PN) coalition.
Several sources who are in the know of what happened told Malay Mail that Zahid is digging in his heels to withdraw support for PN, leaving him in an even more precarious position than before the meeting started.
“Some Umno leaders urged the president to see reason in maintaining a stable government, at least for the time being, while the government tries to contain Covid-19 and restart the economy,” one source said on condition of anonymity.
Another source disclosed that the chief critic leading the charge against Zahid is his vice-president Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob who was newly announced as the deputy prime minister.
The second source said Ismail’s faction has the support of many Umno ministers. They are demanding Zahid stand down.
“Ismail firmly and sternly told Zahid that many are weary of his political stand to withdraw Umno’s support from PN and want him to stop,” said the source.
A third source said Zahid is not without supporters in the supreme council. They are adamant that Umno must hold the prime minister’s seat, currently occupied by Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin from Bersatu.
“The Zahid camp is convinced that Umno should be given the front seat in the administration as the people felt that the current government has failed,” said the third source.
The Umno supreme council comprises 46 members. Most of them do not hold Cabinet positions in the Muhyiddin administration. Only 15 are MPs.
In comparison, most of the Umno leaders backing Ismail are not even members of the supreme council. These include Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein who was also promoted to senior minister in the PN government, and taking on the additional Security Cluster portfolio. Other Umno ministers who are seen as PN-friendly are Khairy Jamaluddin who is also coordinating the national Covid-19 immunisation programme and Tan Sri Annuar Musa who was very recently replaced as the party secretary-general.
Analysts contacted by Malay Mail earlier had already said Zahid’s position as president is shaky prior to the party’s supreme council meet tonight when the Prime Minister’s Office announced the promotion of Ismail to deputy prime minister and Hishammuddin as senior minister in charge of the Security Cluster.
Socio-political analyst Awang Azman Pawi of Universiti Malaya said the appointment of the two Umno men at such a time was to catapult both leaders to the highest hierarchy in the party to check Zahid’s influence and the possibility of the country’s largest Malay party officially withdrawing support for the PN government.
The supreme council meeting finally ended at 12.45am.