Hitting pause on politicking

PETALING JAYA: The appointments of Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob as Deputy Prime Minister and Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein as Senior Minister (Security) will provide the much-needed pause in politicking as the country battles Covid-19, say several analysts.

Universiti Sains Malaysia’s Prof Dr Sivamurugan Pandian said the appointments were timely as there was a leadership crisis that had led to political uncertainty.

“The appointments are timely and is one of the mechanisms to manage the leadership crisis. The way forward is to focus on the pandemic rather than continue politicking.

“The present leadership crisis has led to instability and uncertainty. There should at least be a ceasefire on political matters,” he said.

The appointments of Ismail Sabri and Hishammuddin came hours before a scheduled Umno supreme council virtual meeting at 8.30pm yesterday, where Umno is expected to decide on its support for the Perikatan Nasional government led by Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin.

The appointments also came days after high-profile meetings among Umno leaders, as speculation continues to swirl on Umno’s future within the Perikatan government.

Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi is currently facing a leadership crisis as there are growing calls for him to resign as party president before the 15th General Election is called.

Sivamurugan also said Ahmad Zahid’s position as party president would be safe for now as the party polls had been postponed.

However, he warned that the appointment of the duo could lead to Umno considering leaving the government because it may not have been discussed at the party’s supreme council.

Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia political analyst Suffian Mansor regards the appointments as a temporary arrangement to cool down the political temperature.

“In the long run, it will erupt again if they do not meet Umno’s expectations. Umno wants the prime minister’s post, not deputy prime minister,” he said.

Suffian agreed with Sivamurugan that Ahmad Zahid’s position as Umno president would not be affected by the duo’s promotion.

“The delay of Umno elections will give Ahmad Zahid the room to stay in power,” he added.

Universiti Malaya’s Prof Dr Awang Azman Awang Pawi said the announcement could be seen as an attempt to shore up support from Ismail Sabri and Hishammuddin in order to prevent Umno from leaving the Perikatan government.

However, he said the appointment would not calm Malaysians down, as many were still disgruntled over the government’s efficiency in managing Covid-19, the economy and the direction of the country.

He also said the move might invite opposition from Umno’s supreme council, division chiefs and grassroots members.

“It really depends on the reaction and the official decision of the Umno supreme council. It may be rejected because it wasn’t discussed at the supreme council and the general assembly,” he said.

A similar view was also expressed by Singapore Institute of International Affairs Senior Fellow Oh Ei Sun, who said the appointments would not calm down political tensions at present, given that a majority of Umno grassroots were in favour of leaving the Perikatan-led government.

“It’s just a matter of time, maybe tonight (Wednesday) or the coming days, it will explode,” he said.

He noted that although Ahmad Zahid may not enjoy popular support from Barisan MPs, he is well received among the grassroots.

“They can’t just topple him. I think he does enjoy vast support from the grassroots,” added Oh.

For the time being, observers are closely watching developments in Umno.

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