GEORGE TOWN: Ismail Sabri Yaakob appears to be stuck between trying to shore up Umno’s support for the prime minister and keeping the party intact.
It does not help him that Umno is already divided between a camp supporting Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin and another against him.
“Ismail is caught in the middle. It’s a dilemma facing many leaders in Umno,” said Ibrahim Suffian of Merdeka Center.
Speaking to FMT, he said Ismail had to handle two core issues facing Umno – one a dispute over the position of its president, Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, and the other the issue of seat allocations for the next general election (GE15).
He said some party members saw Zahid as a weak leader and one who could affect the party’s confidence in going into future elections.
“Umno cannot strongly recover in future elections as long as Zahid remains at the helm of the party. For many people, the party needs to move on.
“At the same time, Zahid is the leader of the party and he will use the position to defend himself. He is aided by one strong argument – that Umno cannot give up seats to Bersatu or PAS.
“Any leader who is okay with the idea of sacrificing Umno’s seats or position to Bersatu will be seen as betraying the party’s agenda and trust.”
Ibrahim said this was the conflict between those wanting to work with Muhyiddin and those refusing to do so.
He noted that Ismail had said a number of MPs were on his side and with the Perikatan Nasional-led (PN) government. But the lack of Umno’s support might negate that, he added.
“Ismail runs the risk of being in conflict with the party. All the support he claims from the MPs is moot when his own party does not want to work with Bersatu.”
Mohd Azizuddin Mohd Sani of Universiti Utara Malaysia (UUM) said the fallout between Umno and Bersatu was caused simply by Umno’s confidence in its chances in the next polls.
He said Umno felt confident that it would do better in the polls without Bersatu and PAS but those MPs who had aligned themselves with the PM were doing so in order to get support from the government for the election.
Only three Umno ministers, namely Hishammuddin Hussein, Khairy Jamaluddin, and Adham Baba appear to be undecided over which camp to support.
“The three men appear to be more focused on Covid-19, vaccinations and health matters,” Azizuddin said.
“However, they have no choice but to make their stand known. It is inevitable. Whatever stance they take, it will damage the party.”