New winds blow in Umno: Will GE-13 be delayed until after Umno polls?
It won’t be long now before we see a shift in the political drift coursing through this nation. Internal politicking within UMNO has increased, culminating in the foreseen departure of Prime Minister Najib Razak, with many insiders expecting this to happen next year. The next in line is of course his deputy Muhyiddin Yassin, who will take his place. All eyes are on him and many wonder, whether he will succeed in reforming UMNO, where past presidents have failed.
Muhyiddin's open house during Hari Raya was much watched. And the record crowds which came confirmed the views of many that support is growing for him, while it wanes for his boss.
UMNO polls first, then only GE?
To political observers, it was worth noting that among those who made a beeline for the DPM were MCA president Chua Soi Lek, his son Deputy Agriculture and Agro-based Industry Minister Chua Tee Yong and other local BN leaders. There has been heavy speculation of a change in alignment not just amongst UMNO members in favour of Muhyiddin, but also within the BN component parties.
There is even talk that Muhyiddin may take over before the next General Election. If that should happen, it would mean a deferment of the general election date to the latter half of 2012, while the UMNO internal polls would be brought foward to within the first half of the year.
At this point in time, this may seem unlikely but given how fluid things are in UMNO, it is not impossible and may be achieved so as to get the warlords satiated and settled down before GE-13. Some critics say such a power transition in UMNO before GE-13 was sheer suicide, but UMNO watchers disagreed.
"Not really, because UMNO is only looking at UMNO these day. They know MCA and Gerakan are lost causes. What they want to ensure is the Malay unity amongst their 3 million members and the various warlords. That way, they can defend the seats they are holding and maybe claw some from PAS, which is why you see them attacking Mat Sabu without mercy and accusing of PAS being a communist," a veteran UMNO watcher told Malaysia Chronicle.
Muhyiddin pow-wow and William Bourdon
There has also been talk that Najib may be forced to lay down a succession plan in favour of his deputy at the December general assembly. This seems to be the minimum Najib will be let off with, but Muhyiddin is obviously gunning to consolidate his hold on power before GE-13 is called.
According to the party insiders, one reason for this was to reduce infighting from Najib's supporters who might feel unhappy at his being forced out before he could even complete a term.
The 58-year-old Najib has come under heavy fire of late and it has been obviously a lot of his troubles were sparked by his own party colleagues, who were alarmed his weak leadership especially during the July 9 Bersih rally. Indeed, news down the UMNO grapevine that Muhyiddin was planning a huge UMNO meeting forced Najib to cut short an Italian holiday he had scheduled after an official visit to the Vatican.
The speculated Muhyiddin pow-wow had coincded with French lawyer William Bourdon's three-leg seminar in Kuala Lumpur, where he had been scheduled to brief citizen groups of Najib's involvement in the RM7 billion Scorpene submarines acquitisition. Najib has been accused to taking commission and kickback from the vendor DCN and it was not surprise when Boudon was suddenly deported just hours before a high-anticipated dinner-talk cum press conference.
To many in the Malay community, Najib is already history and Muhyiddin is now the man of the hour. However, many believe that he will succeed in wresting the UMNO presidency from Najib but may not become Prime Minister, because GE-13 is most likely to be won by the Pakatan Rakyat led by Opposition Leader Anwar Ibrahim.
"I see Muhyiddin taking over the UMNO presidency. I think that is already a given. But as to being PM of Malaysia, he will have fight very hard and this is why we have to be alert and persistent on the elctoral reforms," PKR vice president Chua Jui Meng told Malaysia Chronicle.
UMNO president but may not be Malaysian PM
At 64, Muhyiddin needs to hurry if he is to reach the pinnacle before he retires. A self-made man, his background differs vastly from Najib's. Some questions that abount include, how is he going to put everything in place and ready UMNO in time for GE-13? Will he have the blessing of the public? Will he be able to turn the economy around and effect a fair administration? Will he be able to stabilize the country in terms of racial and religious turmoil?
These questions are fair especially in light of his infamous 'Malay First, Malaysian next' comments, which may believe will disqualify him for the PM's job in the eyes on the non-Malay voters.
Still, give that the Malay electorate is the biggest in the country and with the help of allies in Sabah and Sarawak, Muhyiddin's supporters are confident he can pull through with a simple majority although they will aim for two-thirds of the 222 seats in the Malaysian Parliament.
"At least there will be direction in UMNO, which is now non-existent under Najib. As for the economy, it is hard for anyone to do worse than Najib and as for the non-Malays, I am sure Muhyiddin will know how to woo them back when he is in power. For him, the important thing is he has shown UMNO he is a resolute person, not like Najib who is seen as a weak and only interested in spending on unnecessary overseas trips for himself, his wife and his own set of cronies and operators," a Muhyiddin supporter told Malaysia Chronicle.
Warlordism has overtaken UMNO, party is now uncontrollable
Muhyiddin hails from Johor. He entered politics in the 70’s, before being elected as MP for Pagoh in 1978. He rose through the ranks to be Johore UMNO chief, becoming Menteri Besar from 1986-1995. He was appointed to the federal Cabinet as Minister of Youth and Sports and later as Minister of Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs. Muhyiddin also became a national vice president in 2000 and was Minister of Agriculture (2004–2008) and then Minister of International Trade and Industry (2008–2009).
In 2008, he contested and won the UMNO deputy presidency and was appointed Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Education by Prime Minister Najib Razak in 2009, with the full backing of former premier Mahathir Mohamad. However, once ensconced in the top UMNO chair,
As Education Minister, Muhyiddin ended the use of English as the medium of instruction for science and mathematics in public schools, a move that pleased Malay groups but is increasing opposed by parents and educationists. Once ensconced in the top chair, he will have to learn new skils and pretty quickly - either as Prime Minister or Opposition Leader.
"So far, all the Prime Ministers have come from UMNO and they are not really their own spokesmen or spokesmen for the nation. Like Najib, Muhyiddin will have to report to UMNO, and he has to carry out the wishes of the party. The opinion of the party is expected to come first, and he will merely be its voice," said Jui Meng.
"If he goes against party wishes, his political career is as good as toasted. The party put him there and the party will bury him if he does not toe the line, just like Najib. And this is why UMNO itself needs to reform. The warlordism there has gotten out of hand and has become a cancer eating and destrying the party."