A political view point from some unknown analyst:
April 15, 2017:What do Ghafar Baba, Muhyiddin and Zahid Hamidi have in common? All of them had or have become the DPM of Malaysia. Unfortunately, that’s as far as they could reach. That’s the best they could achieve. No matter how noble, racist or thuggish they are, that’s their highest position before they get defeated or fired.
Mr. Ghafar was a noble and humble DPM. He was defeated by Anwar Ibrahim in 1993 UMNO election and lost the deputy premiership. Mr. Muhyiddin was a racist and incompetent DPM . He was fired by his boss – PM Najib Razak – for publicly criticizing Najib’s involvement in 1MDB scandal. Zahid Hamidi is a thuggish and corrupt DPM . He was promoted after his predecessor Muhyiddin was sacked.
Now, it appears he’s walking the same path as his comrades Ghafar and Muhyiddin to an early retirement. But Zahid should be proud that he would be the richest among the trio who ultimately failed to make it to the top. There’s another unique skillset that Ghafar, Muhyiddin and Zahid possessed. All of them are “NOT” PM material – they spoke very little or fantastically horrible English. Despite chest-thumping about championing Malays’ culture, empowering Malays’ rights, defending Islam and whatnot, UMNO-Malays actually take pride of their leaders’ fluency of English.
Zahid is toast. He is “kaput” the moment his boss Najib suddenly announced the appointment of Hishammuddin Hussein as a Minister with Special Functions in the PM’s Department two days ago. Essentially, Hishammuddin, who will maintain his existing Defence Minister portfolio, is now the most powerful minister – even more powerful than Deputy PM Zahid. Now, do you understand why Hishammuddin Hussein has been as silent as a mouse over the last two years, even during the peak of the explosive 1MDB scandal involving his cousin, PM Najib Razak? Like a poisonous snake shedding its skin, Hishammuddin was trying to wash all his sins of racism and extremism – by maintaining an elegant silence.
It was a clever strategy to distance himself from his tainted cousin as well as to allow people forget how he “brandished the keris (Malay dagger)” in a threatening fashion against non-Muslims during past UMNO assemblies. His appointment as Minister with Special Functions has boosted his position as the next candidate to take over from the scandalous Najib. Yes, that’s what everyone – the opposition, village folks and even hamsters at pet shops – are speculating now.
The sudden promotion of Hishammuddin is seen as a preparation for him to take over the prime ministership when PM Najib Razak resigns due to his 1MDB scandal, which has incurred debts up to RM50 billion, and counting. Najib haters were rejoicing as they took the latest political manoeuvre as a sign that the fabulously corrupt and spendthrift prime minister is finally stepping down.
Some speculate he would resign “after” the coming 14th general election. Some say it would be “before”. But if his notorious UMNO party could win another election victory, why should he resign “after the election”? On the other hand, if Najib is preparing to resign “before the election” hence Hishammuddin is given a short cut to the premiership on a silver platter, it would create chaos and internal power struggle, which is as good as digging a grave for UMNO. Furthermore, if Najib is to call a snap election this year, the “transition time” is too short for Hishammuddin to take over.
This can only mean one thing. Najib son of Razak is not going to resign.
After he went through all the pain of taking the blame, criticism, insult and humiliation, do you really think Najib will surrender now? After working tirelessly on bailouts and sales of national assets to China, why should he resign now? Even if he wants to, his wife Rosmah will not authorize his resignation. Unless, of course, military intelligence says his party, UMNO, and coalition Barisan Nasional are going to lose more seats despite playing the hudud cards. In that case, there would be a problem with election campaign after the Parliament is resolved. Whose face should be printed on banners, posters and buntings, assuming it would be an American-presidential-style campaign?
During the last 2013 nationwide election, Najib’s face was the selling point.But that was before his 1MDB scandal exploded and before the unpopular GST tax was introduced. Fortunately to him, the late Sarawak Chief Minister Adenan Satem was very popular hence posters of him were used (instead of Najib’s) to fish for votes during the 2016 Sarawak state election. Obviously, Najib’s cute face will not do the trick again in the coming 14th general election. Unfortunately, Zahid’s can’t be used too. While Zahid is very popular with UMNO grassroots, that’s only true with the rural folks.
One man’s meat is another man’s poison.
Urban folks, especially the Chinese, are associating Zahid’s face with racism, corruption and extremism. Between Zahid and Hishammuddin, fence sitters would prefer the latter. Even within educated Malay voters, Hishammuddin who spoke good English is like branded Starbucks coffee while Zahid is seen as “kopi chap kapak (cheap unbranded coffee)”, no matter how much cosmetic is applied or how expensive Zahid’s suits is. Zahid is just another “jaguh kampung (village champion)”.
And do we need to talk about Hishammuddin’s elite family?
His grandfather, Onn bin Ja’afar, founded the ethnic-Malay party UMNO that has dominated politics ever since Malaysia gained independence from Britain in 1957. His father – Hussein Onn – was the country’s third prime minister. His wife, Tengku Marsilla Tengku Abdullah, is a princess from the state of Pahang. Not only Najib has no plan of stepping down, he plans to use his cousin Hishammuddin to lead the charge in the 14th general election campaign. The PM is so unpopular and unwanted that there’s no guarantee he could win even with massive gerrymandering and disarray within opposition parties. Hishammuddin is to be decorated as the knight in shining armour.
More importantly, Najib desperately needs his cousin to defend UMNO stronghold in Johor.
Based on our analysis done in 2015, Najib could lose 11 Johor state seats in the event of a 5% votes swing, reducing BN to just 27 seats from the current 38. And if the situation gets worse with 5% to 10% votes swing, UMNO could lose another 12 seats. Either way, UMNO would lose the state of Johor.
The sacking of Muhyiddin, an influential Johor warlord, was a tactical mistake.
Generally, Johoreans despise Najib, so much so that the prime minister dares not visit the state. In fact, Najib is at the mercy of his cousin Hishammuddin to fish Johorean votes by using Onn bin Ja’afar and Hussein Onn cards. Mr. Najib could have had promised to pass the baton before the 15th general election, which will be in 2022, assuming the 14th general election is to be held this year – if Hishammuddin brings back spoils of war. That would provide the luxury of time for Najib to consolidate his power (and wealth), which also means there’s a possibility that he might break his promise to his cousin. At 55 years old, the young Hishammuddin isn’t in a rush as he has tons of time to polish the necessary skills during this transition period, as compared to 64-year-old Zahid. Using the time wisely, Hishammuddin could also strengthen his position by challenging Zahid for the deputy UMNO president post. Hishammuddin is therefore a lesser threat to Najib than Zahid.
If Zahid behaves, he could continue with his present positions. If not, he would be fired and lose all the “perks”.
Unless Zahid plans to rebel, he has no choice but to throw his support behind Hishammuddin, even if it means helping his enemy for the throne.
By obeying Najib and sucking up to Hishammuddin, at least Zahid gets to be No. 2 – until such time his service is no longer required.
In a way, it was a brilliant tactical move by PM Najib Razak to extend his expiry date. By promoting his own cousin, he clips ambitious Zahid’s wings and allows laggard Hishamuddin to catch-up. If you think Najib is surrendering and resigning soon, think again. He has too many dirty laundries to walk away now. Hishammuddin is his preservative to keep food last longer.
(with thanks to Irene Chew)