KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 15 — Umno vice-president Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob has asserted tonight that he remains Barisan Nasional's (BN) prime minister candidate, amid claims that his position is not set in stone.
The caretaker prime minister said the Umno Supreme Council had previously unanimously decided on this matter, which was later endorsed by the BN's component parties after the decision was taken to the BN Supreme Council.
"The Umno general assembly (PAU) has made the unanimous decision that I’m the prime minister candidate, that’s the same with Umno Supreme Council.
"And PAU is the highest authority that included chiefs of all divisions of Umno, even the grassroots supported me to become the candidate,” said Ismail Sabri in an interview aired by local broadcasters.
He added that Umno president Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Zamid, and his counterparts in MCA, MIC and PBRS Datuk Seri Wee Ka Siong, Tan Sri S. Vigneswaran and Tan Sri Joseph Kurup have also backed him publicly as prime minister candidate.
"Leaders in Umno such as deputy president Tok Mat, and even president Zahid said two days ago in Melaka that there will be no change to the decision that Ismail Sabri is the official candidate,” he added, referring to Datuk Seri Mohammad Hassan.
The Opposition's attack on Zahid as prospective prime minister began as soon as the general election campaign got underway last week.
Pakatan Harapan (PH) leaders warned voters that "a vote for BN is a vote for Zahid as prime minister” while PN chimed in by accusing Ismail Sabri of being Zahid’s puppet.
This claim was also made by Pejuang chairman and former prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, who insisted that Zahid would hold the top post if BN won the polls.
PH also alleged that Ahmad Zahid was eyeing the top seat in Putrajaya following his move to drop Ismail Sabri’s ministers such as Tan Sri Annuar Musa and Tan Sri Noh Omar from contesting the election.
BN and Ahmad Zahid have insisted that Ismail Sabri is the poster boy for this campaign, but conceded that the final decision to appoint the prime minister lies with the Yang di-Pertuan Agong.
PH is presenting Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim as its prime minister candidate, while Perikatan Nasional is presenting Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin.