PETALING JAYA: A political analyst has speculated a showdown in Umno, saying this is indicated by Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob’s decision to give equal funding to all MPs.
Oh Ei Sun of the Singapore Institute of International Affairs told FMT he believed a tussle for the Umno presidency was likely and that Ismail was desperate for the support of MPs.
He said the decision to allocate equal funding could “only mean that something is brewing” in Ismail’s administration and that “Umno is heading for a showdown.”
He added that the equal funding would probably last as long as Ismail felt secure in his support, particularly from his own party.
He said it was too soon to tell whether the prime minister had the edge over current Umno president Ahmad Zahid Hamidi should he contest for the top party post.
Ismail is the first prime minister from Umno who is not the party president. The Bera MP is one of three Umno vice-presidents.
Zahid became the first sitting Umno president to be excluded from the administration although the party was part of the administration under Muhyiddin Yassin. He remains excluded from the government.
The Muhyiddin administration fell after he lost the majority support of MPs following the decision of a group of Umno MPs led by Zahid to withdraw their backing for the prime minister. They then backed Ismail as prime minister.
Ismail has signed a memorandum of understanding with Pakatan Harapan. Tony Pua of DAP has said this strengthened the prime minister’s position, allowing him to fend off threats or demands from Zahid and former prime minister Najib Razak.
Last Thursday, deputy special functions minister Mastura Mohd Yazid announced that Ismail had agreed to give all MPs in the government and opposition equal allocations for the remainder of the year.
Another analyst, Ahmad Fauzi Abdul Hamid of Universiti Sains Malaysia, said the current government seemed aware that it came to power not through elections but defections, which would make it unfair to take away funding from opposition MPs who were given the people’s mandate in the last general election.
“It is a positive move in calming down cries of a backdoor government, something which dogged Muhyiddin’s government and which he wasn’t able to counter effectively,” he said.
Awang Azman Pawi of Universiti Malaya said the equal funding would ensure there would be no more defections on the basis of requiring more funds for constituents, a reason cited by Lubok Antu MP Jugah Muyang when he left the Pakatan Harapan bloc.
He told FMT the next step forward for Ismail would be to make this a permanent policy for the government.
“This is the best step for the nation’s political landscape and is a form of social justice for all parties, as agreed upon under the MoU.”