KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 6 — Umno’s efforts on Friday to effectively depose the Perak mentri besar from ally Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin’s Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia may not be a warning shot towards him, political observers have said.
Political analyst Prof Azmi Hassan believes that Perak Umno’s discontent with Bersatu’s Datuk Seri Ahmad Faizal Azumu is unlikely to extend to the federal level where Umno is part of Muhyiddin’s Perikatan Nasional administration.
“No, I don’t think the Perak incident can be considered as an implicit warning to Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin.
“What transpired in Perak is basically due to the MB’s style of leadership that makes Umno do the unthinkable,” he told Malay Mail when contacted.
Azmi said Umno would continue to back Muhyiddin’s federal government such as by voting in the Dewan Rakyat in favour of the Bill for Budget 2021, but highlighted that such support from Umno has always been conditional.
“At the national level, Umno no doubt will support Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin aka the supply bill where Umno as an organisation throws its support behind the government.
“Talking about withdrawing its support, in fact even before the Perak fiasco, it’s well known that Umno’s support of PN is very conditional,” he said.
It’s about strength in numbers
Universiti Putra Malaysia’s Prof Jayum Jawan agreed that Umno’s actions against the Perak mentri besar could “perhaps” be seen as a warning shot towards Muhyiddin to show that Umno could retract its support of his administration at any time.
However, Jayum highlighted that unstable governments have been the norm following the 14th general election in 2018, pointing to situations in which the party where the state or federal leader is derived were relatively weaker in terms of number of seats.
“But formation of government at federal and state after the 2018 general elections invite political instability because the leadership is not backed by a strong mandate, especially the lead party in the political coalition.
“For example, PH government was led by Mahathir and Bersatu that had the least number of seats compared to PKR and DAP it was a matter of time before it would collapse,” he told Malay Mail when contacted, referring to the Pakatan Harapan government that had then Bersatu chairman Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad as its prime minister and Bersatu’s then PH allies PKR and DAP.
“So on the basis of the above argument, any government, federal and at state, that is not led by a strong party within the coalition government is shaky and could be dislodged any time when alliance shifted within the coalition,” he added.
In the 59-seat Perak legislative assembly, Bersatu only has five seats including Ahmad Faizal’s, while its allies Umno and PAS have 25 and three seats, respectively; the rival Pakatan Harapan coalition has 24 votes collectively, with the remaining two being from an independent-turned-Gerakan member and an independent.
In the vote of confidence towards Ahmad Faizal on Friday in the Perak state assembly, he lost the vote as a combined 48 state assemblymen from Umno and PH voted against him, while only 10 voted in his favour (four from Bersatu, three from PAS, two from Umno and the remaining two independent), while the last vote was a spoilt vote.
Universiti Sains Malaysia’s Prof Sivamurugan Pandian said Umno would indeed be able to retract its support for Muhyiddin’s Perikatan Nasional federal administration whenever it wishes to do so, but pointed out that it has reaffirmed its backing for PN in Dewan Rakyat debates on Budget 2021.
“They can as they hold the biggest number but they have repeated their support during Budget. Maybe they should communicate more and the presidential council announced during PPBM AGM will be a good platform to trash out their issues,” he told Malay Mail when contacted.
Umno has 38 MPs which is crucial for PN to maintain a simple majority in Parliament and to remain in power, with its numbers overshadowing Bersatu which currently has 31 MPs.
During Bersatu’s third annual general meeting on November 28, party president Muhyiddin said he has proposed for a presidential council to be formed with party leaders from ruling coalition PN, ally Barisan Nasional, Gabungan Parti Sarawak and Gabungan Rakyat Sabah.
Muhyiddin said the idea for a presidential council was following his meeting with Umno president and Barisan Nasional chairman Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi where they spoke about the need to mend Umno-Bersatu ties, also noting that a presidential council would enable even party leaders who are not in Cabinet to share their views for consideration in government policies.
Zahid, who is currently facing criminal trials in court, is not a member of the federal government, with his party also previously voicing discontent at allegedly not being given more senior roles in the government.
Umno’s move a reminder to Muhyiddin?
Shazwan Mustafa Kamal, senior associate with political and policy risk consultancy Vriens & Partners, said the removal of Ahmad Faizal as Perak mentri besar is Umno leadership’s “signal” to Muhyiddin and Bersatu that “nothing is set in stone”.
“Despite backing Muhyiddin in the voting of the Budget at the policy level, the relationship between Umno and Bersatu remains one that will constantly be tested and renegotiated,” he told Malay Mail when contacted.
Shazwan said Umno as a dominant force is exerting its will and perhaps showing Malaysia a prelude of what could come if its demands are not met, further indicating that Umno’s targeting of Ahmad Faizal is a calculated move to send a message to Muhyiddin.
“Umno honing its sights on Faizal Azumu is no mere coincidence as he is Bersatu deputy president. It is a reminder to Muhyiddin that his own position is precarious and may be challenged anytime.
“Bersatu in turn may not take this lying down. Already there are hints of Bersatu ‘retaliating’ in Johor. Should this happen, it may further destabilise the already shaky relationship between Umno and Bersatu,” he said.
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