Battle over elections

Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob. -filepic

HELL hath no fury like an Umno supreme council member sacked.

On June 21, Umno removed Pasir Salak MP Datuk Seri Tajuddin Abdul Rahman from its supreme council. A few days after news of his sacking was reported, Tajuddin called for a tell-all press conference to whack Umno leadership.

Among his allegations are that he and 14 Umno MPs signed statutory declarations to support PKR president Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim to become the prime minister in 2020, and that an Umno faction tried to remove Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi as party president.

Tajuddin also said that the prime minister and the Umno president should be the same person, and that “there is a lot of grassroots support for Ismail to become [the next] Umno president. We want a president who is clean,” Tajuddin said, referring to Umno vice-president Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob, and perhaps also the fact that Ahmad Zahid is currently battling corruption charges in court.

Despite the dramatic delivery, though, Tajuddin’s revelations were nothing new. Other Umno leaders, especially those in the I-don’t-want-snap-polls cluster, have spoken about them.

If Tajuddin thought he would raise hell, especially with his contention that Ahmad Zahid and former prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak supported Anwar to be PM, well, he didn’t, said an Umno insider with the I-want-snap-polls cluster.

“What you see in politics is not what you get. Zahid and Najib seemingly supported Anwar to be PM. And Anwar excitedly announced that he had ‘strong, formidable and convincing’ support from MPs to form the government [in September 2020],” the Umno insider said.

But in reality, he explained, Umno and its coalition partners in Barisan Nasional (MCA, MIC and Parti Bersatu Rakyat Sabah) got what they wanted, which was special Employees Provident Fund withdrawals and an extension of the moratorium on loan repayments for the B40 (lower income) group and micro and small and medium-sized enterprises in Budget 2021 under then prime minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin.

“And Anwar was ridiculed and lost credibility when it became apparent he didn’t have the numbers to be PM,” the insider pointed out, saying that there had been a “plot within a plot” to convince Anwar that he had support.

(Anwar has since said he lost his support when he refused to drop court cases in exchange for becoming PM.)

I asked the insider whether Tajuddin’s sacking from the supreme council is a warning to party vice-president Ismail Sabri to toe the line and seek consent from the King to dissolve Parliament as soon as possible.

“It not only serves as a warning to Ismail Sabri but also to those who are still pro-PN,” he said, referring to Umno leaders who are cosy with the Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia-led Perikatan Nasional, which is currently part of Ismail Sabri’s coalition government.

“Ismail Sabri has severely underestimated his support within Umno, and it is diminishing by the day.”

The insider continued: “If you rely on Tajuddin and Nazri [Padang Rengas MP Datuk Seri Nazri Abdul Aziz] to be your spokesperson, you are doomed to fail.”

He explained that these two larger-than-life personalities are not popular with the public, and “the more these two people talk and try to defend you, the more you will also become unpopular”.

He contended that if Umno polls are held today, it is likely that Ketereh MP Tan Sri Annuar Musa, Tajuddin, Nazri and others deemed to be pro-Ismail Sabri or pro-Perikatan could be wiped out.

“In fact, there is no guarantee that Ismail Sabri would win if he contests the president or deputy president posts,” he said.

Of course, the I-don’t-want-snap-polls cluster disagree with this prediction. They believe their political fortunes will survive if they dispose of most of the I-want-snap-polls cluster before the 15th General Election (GE15) is called. They, in fact, want an Umno poll as soon as possible.

On May 15, Umno held an extraordinary general meeting at which delegates unanimously passed a resolution to amend the party’s Constitution to allow party polls to be held after GE15 is approved. The party has to call for internal elections by December 2022 if the Registrar of Societies does not allow the Constitution to be amended.

The favoured GE15 prediction is that it will be held around Septem-ber this year. Contacts tell me that so and so told them that Barisan is gearing up for that month. I wouldn’t want to make a guess, though, as the two factions in Umno are still negotiating the best time for GE15, and they will influence the timing.

Team Umno, led by Barisan secretary-general Datuk Seri Zambry Abdul Kadir, is talking to Team Umno Cabinet (those in the Ismail Sabri government) headed by Umno vice-president and Rural Development Minister Datuk Seri Mahdzir Khalid.

Umno’s two factions – the I-want-snap-polls cluster and the I-don’t-want-snap-polls cluster – are still at odds.

Team Ahmad Zahid of the former group has several options if they are forced to press the panic button to pressure the Prime Minister to call for GE15 this year.

For instance, there are murmurs from the I-want-snap-polls cluster that Umno leadership under Ahmad Zahid could do to Ismail Sabri what it did to Tajuddin.

“The threat is there. If the Prime Minister does not adhere to the wishes of Umno members to call for polls as soon as possible, the last resort could be the Tajuddin option,” the Umno insider said.

The I-want-snap-polls cluster could also do to Prime Minister Ismail Sabri what they did to previous PM Muhyiddin when 15 Umno MPs withdrew their support for the Bersatu president, forcing him to quit the premier job.

In the meantime, the I-don’t-want-snap-polls cluster will fight till hell freezes over for the Prime Minister to finish his full term.

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