KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 25 — Prime Minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob is not keen on having a deputy, let alone one from political rival Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia, party insiders divulged.
However, sources from both Umno and Bersatu told Malay Mail that Ismail may have little choice but to appoint one as it was among the conditions laid down by Bersatu in return for its support to his prime ministership last week.
And the Bersatu nominee for the DPM post is Datuk Seri Azmin Ali, who has also been suggested to be put in charge of the Ministry of Finance (MOF).
“Azmin was suggested as DPM and MoF,” a Bersatu insider said on condition of anonymity.
The source added that Bersatu president Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin, whose resignation as prime minister on August 16 paved the way for Ismail’s rise to power, has told his successor that the party will withdraw its support if he does not choose someone from his party to be his deputy.
“Muhyiddin will pull out support if Ismail does not appoint a DPM from Bersatu,” the source said.
Azmin’s nomination for the two posts has not been well received by Umno, a party insider said.
This is because the country’s biggest political party is coveting the Finance Ministry portfolio as well. The Umno source was tightlipped on the party’s own candidates.
However, two names from the party have been openly floated; Umno deputy president Datuk Seri Mohamad Hassan, and Datuk Seri Johari Abdul Ghani, neither of whom are currently an MP.
The Umno source said that if either is chosen, he would be appointed a senator.
“Bottom line is, the MoF should be aligned well with the prime minister,” the Umno insider told Malay Mail yesterday.
Ismail is the first Malaysian prime minister who is not a political party president.
As Ismail has promised to announce his Cabinet by this week, clashes between Umno and Bersatu have intensified since his appointment as PM last Saturday.
On the first day he clocked in to work, the country’s ninth prime minister was forced to publicly address speculations on a list of candidates circulating on social media. Ismail immediately dismissed the circulating lists as fake, saying discussions were ongoing.
Party insiders told Malay Mail that certain Umno veterans have been internally jockeying to lead most ministries ever since the PM post returned to their side.
The Umno source said his party wants all the ministries previously led by Bersatu to be given back. Other than MoF, they are the Ministry of Education (MOE), Ministry of Rural Development (KPLB) and Ministry of Agriculture (MoA).
The only two ministries that Umno members are willing to leave to Bersatu are the Ministry of Health (MoH) and Ministry of Science and Technology (Mosti).
“Both ministries have big challenges with high workloads and limited funds,” one source said, noting that MoH and Mosti were held by Umno lawmakers under the Perikatan Nasional government.
A source with close knowledge of parliamentary affairs also told Malay Mail of a shake-up within the Dewan Rakyat after Umno’s Datuk Seri Azalina Othman Said relinquished her post as Deputy Speaker of the Lower House.
The other deputy speaker Datuk Mohd Rashid Hasnon from Bersatu has not resigned.
Soon after his appointment, Ismail made overtures to the Opposition seeking its MPs’ cooperation for his leadership.
However, he also said that his administration will not be a unity government that involves Opposition MPs.
* Editor's Note: Malay Mail offers a full and unreserved apology to Dewan Rakyat Speaker Datuk Azhar Azizan Harun for an earlier version of this report citing a source saying he had been asked to resign and refused. It has been clarified to us that this is untrue, and we also acknowledge not seeking clarification from him regarding the allegation made by a third party source.