PETALING JAYA, Oct 21: Two political analysts have voiced doubt that Umno would take disciplinary action against its president, Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, and his predecessor, Najib Razak, if it is true the two are among MPs backing Anwar Ibrahim’s bid to become prime minister.
James Chin of the University of Tasmania’s Asia Institute told FMT he believed they commanded the respect of the biggest Umno faction.
In the case of Zahid, he said, it was he who appointed the people making up the party’s current disciplinary committee.
Oh Ei Sun of the Singapore Institute of International Affairs said it was hard to believe that Umno would take any action against the man at the helm of the party.
“And indeed, as party leader, he is entitled to steer the party towards whichever political direction he sees as beneficial to its interest,” he told FMT.
“Individual members like Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah may disagree with the new direction, in which case they would be welcome to voice their opinions or even leave the party.”
Chin and Oh made their remarks following Razaleigh’s suggestion that any party member supporting opposition parties should face disciplinary action, including dismissal from the party.
The Kelantan prince, also known as Ku Li, said party leaders should not be exempted from disciplinary action if it was true that they were among those supporting the opposition.
His comments came in the wake of speculation that Zahid and Najib were among the MPs who had declared support for opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim in his bid to become the next prime minister.
Oh described Razaleigh’s remarks as self-serving, saying the party veteran seemed to be gunning for the prime minister’s post himself.
He also said the notion that Umno should not work with the opposition was odd since Umno was working with its rivals PAS and PPBM.
“I think Ku Li is finding it difficult to gain traction within the party to support his bid for premiership, and so would like to be gung-ho in trying to attract support,” he added.
Chin agreed that Razaleigh was probably trying to rally support around himself.
However, he said, most Umno members he had been in contact with felt that the Gua Musang MP was way past his prime although that wouldn’t stop him from trying to make a bid for the top party post.
He alleged that Razaleigh had “always dreamt” of becoming Umno president.
“But I don’t think anybody takes him seriously,” he said. “People say if Dr Mahathir Mohamad can do it, why can’t Ku Li do it? The difference is that Mahathir is a one-off. I don’t think Ku Li is a unique politician.”