POLITICS: Rumours swirl around Hisham

UMNO sacks Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein. PAS and Parti Warisan Sabah endorse him as prime minister. A digital poster congratulates Hishammuddin as prime minister and Datuk Seri Azmin Ali as his deputy.

It is the season for fake news.

The last few days – especially as the King holds a series of high-level meetings with leaders of political parties – the rumour mill has been on fire with news about HIshammuddin, who is the Foreign Minister and also Umno's Sembrong MP.

But is there smoke without fire?

Universiti Teknologi Malaysia (UTM) political analyst Dr Mazlan Ali pointed out that Hishammuddin and Azmin were seen as the backbone behind the formation of the Perikatan Nasional government.

"The political uncertainty – with the King meeting leaders of political parties – sparked a polemic that a new government will be formed. It also triggered speculation on who will be the next prime minister," he said.

Mazlan contended that PKR communications director Fahmi Fadzil's statement on Thursday compounded the rumour that Hishammuddin and Azmin were involved in a plot to be prime minister and deputy prime minister.

The Lembah Pantai MP claimed that several MPs were soliciting statutory declarations (SD) from others to obtain positions in the current government.

An Umno insider doused the rumours, which have been spreading like wildfire.

He explained that it started when a pro-PKR news portal ran a report that Hishammuddin was a candidate for deputy prime minister to prepare him to take over from Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin, who would quit as prime minister in the months ahead.

It also reported Umno members would not be able to accept Azmin as deputy prime minister.

A fake news portal, known to copy and paste dubious stories, picked up the story and it went viral.

"As the article states, these are rumours and I don't entertain rumours. We should just concentrate on our #COVID19 response and strengthening our economy," was Hishammuddin's immediate response on Twitter.

The Umno insider said the original story on Hishammuddin was "psy-ops" by those financially backing the news portal.

"The report and intention are designed to (politically) 'kill off' H2O and Azmin (by drawing attention to them and thus awakening their political enemies to take action)," he said, referring to the former Umno vice-president's nickname.

Some took an opinion piece by Hishammuddin on managing the pandemic as proof that he was making a move to be prime minister.

"Is this op-ed a power play?" a journalist asked me.

I asked the Umno insider about the commentary, which Hishammuddin wrote while he was being quarantined at home.

"If you read his article carefully, H2O did not target the prime minister or the Perikatan Nasional government. He did not criticise Muhyiddin or the Finance Ministry's handling of the economy or economic stimulus packages," he said.

Hishammuddin for prime minister? Perhaps the rumours become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

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