PETALING JAYA: Umno will be subverting its own interest if it accepts a deputy prime minister’s (DPM) position for one of its leaders, according to socio-political analyst Awang Azman Pawi of Universiti Malaya.
“It’s short-term gain and long-term pain,” he told FMT in a comment on reports that Umno was considering several names to be proposed as its nominee for the DPM’s post. These includes Umno president Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, vice-president Ismail Sabri Yaakob and Sembrong MP Hishammuddin Hussein.
Awang Azman said Umno would complicate matters both within itself and in its relations with PPBM if it was given the post.
He said the rejection of Zahid’s nomination would be a major blow to the party because it would be as if the position of PPBM president was superior to that of the Umno president when PPBM was, in fact, depending on Umno’s support for its political survival.
There has been speculation that Zahid will not be offered the post because of his ongoing corruption trial.
Awang Azman said if Umno accepted a DPM’s post, it was Perikatan Nasional that would grow in strength as a result of political stability.
“The best thing for Umno would be to disassociate itself from the Perikatan Nasional leadership, which sought a declaration of emergency that was rejected by the Yang di-Pertuan Agong and the people,” he said.
“Umno also needs to ensure that it does not lose seats to PPBM in the run-up to the next general election as a result of weak negotiations.”
He said the party’s grassroots would want to see Umno as the dominant force and as a party daring to make bold decisions.
“A DPM’s post will not help fix the image that the party’s leaders and MPs are weak, an image they got after Umno reiterated its support for the Perikatan Nasional government,” he added.
James Chin of the University of Tasmania’s Asia Institute said he believed Zahid was the most unlikely candidate because of his corruption trial.
“I think it will most likely be Hishammuddin because he is the middle-of-the-road candidate with the least enemies,” he said. “But anything can happen. It could even be someone who is not on the list.”
Chin also said Umno was probably seeking control of key economic ministries as this would be critical to patronage and the retention of support. Such positions, he noted, were now held by those aligned with Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin.