PETALING JAYA,Mar 12: Several political analysts agree with MCA and MIC that Umno needs to plan for the possibility that its president, Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, will be forced to step down.
While quick to point out that Zahid is innocent of corruption until proven guilty, they told FMT they also agreed with the two Barisan Nasional parties that his deputy, Mohamad Hasan, would be the best person to take over the reins.
They were commenting on a news report about MCA and MIC members drawing up a Plan B that involves replacing Zahid with Mohamad, also known as Tok Mat.
One of the analysts, Kenneth Cheng, called Mohamad a moderate politician, saying he did not seem to have subscribed to any ultra right agenda.
“He has no baggage,” he said. “Nothing negative is said against him. In a sense, he is a breath of fresh air in politics.”
Cheng also gave credit to Mohamad for Negeri Sembilan’s economic progress, noting that the state recorded increases in economic growth of 5.2% and 6.2% in 2011 and 2012, when he was its menteri besar.
Another analyst, Azmi Hassan, said he knew that many in Umno were also pushing for Mohamad to be party president.
Plan B was being hatched “not only by MIC and MCA”, he said.
He said Umno leaders should keep grassroots members informed of the plan to prevent shock reactions in case of a leadership change.
“They need to inform the grassroots, but it has to be done discreetly.”
Syed Arabi Idid of the International Islamic University Malaysia noted that Umno had a provision for the post of acting president and said it could be given to Mohamad to fill until party elections were held.
He said the party should not deny him the position just because he lacks political experience at the federal level.
He pointed out that Jacinda Ardern did not have much political experience before her appointment as New Zealand’s prime minister but had proven her ability to handle the job.
James Chin of the University of Tasmania’s Asia Institute said he believed Zahid would appeal against a verdict of guilty, if it was passed.
However, he said, his political future would depend on the maintenance of his close networking with former prime minister Najib Razak.
“As long as they stay together and there’s no conflict between them, Zahid will remain strong,” he said.