PETALING JAYA: Two political analysts say they do not foresee any Umno minister in the Perikatan Nasional administration heeding veteran Umno leader Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah’s call to withdraw from the Cabinet and government.
Oh Ei Sun of the Singapore Institute of International Affairs said “the sun would set on the east and rise from the west” before they would be willing to quit, while Awang Azman Pawi of Universiti Malaya said Umno ministers would follow suit only if there was pressure from the party’s Supreme Council.
Awang Azman said some Umno leaders seemed comfortable being both pro-PPBM and pro-Umno in the interest of protecting their own power and position.
“It will be hard for them to follow Razaleigh’s words because they’re comfortable with the position and power that they have obtained, being part of the PN cabinet. For example, (Federal Territories Minister) Annuar Musa will surely defend PPBM yet change his stance if pressured by the Umno grassroots,” he said.
Awang Azman said the statement by Razaleigh was a signal to his party to not welcome PPBM into Muafakat Nasional, adding that Umno president Ahmad Zahid Hamidi needed to act quickly and decisively to avoid backlash from the grassroots.
He added that the opposition against PPBM was because MN was an alliance between Malay-Muslim-based parties, while PPBM was opening up to non-Bumiputeras.
Razaleigh, commonly referred to as Ku Li, had said on Friday that Umno leaders should withdraw from the government because of PPBM’s decision to accept non-Malays into the party.
He said this disqualified it from being a member of MN, adding that Umno had never joined PN and had only supported it to form the government in the interest of the country’s political stability.
Oh said the Umno leaders in the Cabinet could use Ku Li’s call as an excuse to try and push PPBM and even Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin out of Putrajaya.
He said this wouldn’t be difficult to do considering the small number of seats PPBM holds, adding that Muhyiddin was in a very precarious position and facing pressure from both sides of the divide.
“That’s why he wants to open up a new political niche for his party, by welcoming new non-Bumiputera members. Of course, that would ultimately strengthen Mohamed Azmin Ali’s hand in the party, but that’s a worry for another day,” he said.
Oh said Muhyiddin would try to woo a few more MPs from Pakatan Harapan to his camp by opening his party to other races, while also positioning his party as multiracial.
Awang Azman said the proposal would not attract non-Bumiputeras and that the party risks losing the support of grassroots who have been with it since its inception.
“There’s no guarantee that non-Bumiputeras would support, what more, join PPBM. The exception is for politicians who are stuck, such as PKR leaders who have left the party.
“Muhyiddin has two choices — concede to Umno or return to PH. Muhyiddin should consider returning the government to PH as per the original mandate, or dissolve Parliament to settle the matter democratically.
“It’s not easy to resolve this through statutory declarations because that’s not the people’s mandate,” he said.
Oh said Razaleigh’s statement did not bear much weight, saying the Umno veteran no longer commanded the same amount of support and influence that he did in the 1980s or 1990s.
He said Razaleigh was not a concern for Zahid who should instead be wary of the other factions in Umno led by his deputy, Mohamad Hasan and even former Umno Youth chief Khairy Jamaluddin.
“I think the challenge faced by Zahid does not come from Ku Li. Razaleigh is in his 80s already and he’s no Mahathir. There’s a lot of challenges for Zahid but mainly from the other factions.”