The power brokers in Umno, and who do they support?

Nawawi Mohamad, Hornbill Unleashed

Four people want to control UMNO or at least want to be able to control the UMNO president, whoever that may be at any given time or year.

The most powerful of these four men and the one who has the most at stake is former premier Mahathir Mohamad.

Next is the fabulously rich former Finance minister Daim Zainuddin, former premier Abdullah Badawi and another former Finance minister Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah, who holds the least clout amongst the 4 most influential power-brokers in UMNO.

Analyzing the UMNO elite’s current game plan, it looks like it’s Mahathir’s kitchen that is the most busy at the moment. The feisty 85-year-old who ruled Malaysia for 22 years is said to have given the thumbs up to Najib. But in reality, it is more of a goodbye gesture!

Goodbye Greedy-Najib

Mahathir realizes now that Najib has his own agenda; to be in power and establish his family and relatives in long-term businesses that may later cross or rival those interests held by his sons – Mokhzani, Mirzan and even Mukhriz.

But ambitious as Mahathir may be, due to the talent vacuum in UMNO, the only horse that he can rely on is just Muhyiddin Yassin, the deputy prime minister.

The connection between Mahathir and Muhyiddin goes back a long way, when Muhyiddin together with Defense minister Zahid Hamidi were part of an UMNO faction called the Wawasan 2020 team led by Anwar Ibrahim.

Anwar, now the Opposition Leader, was then the UMNO deputy president and Deputy Prime Minister of Malaysia. But Mahathir, fearful of losing his seat to the extremely popular Anwar, decided to sack him on manifestly trumped-up sodomy charges.

Mahathir’s horse

Both Muhyiddin and Zahid had been ‘devoted’ lieutenants to Anwar then. Thus, to swing them back to his side, Mahathir promised both men some very important positions that would yield great benefits in the longer term, although they may not seem lucrative then. Mahathir did all he could to to isolate Anwar, and this is why Muhyiddin and Zahid are still Mahathir’s men.

Recently, Muhyiddin tried to stand up to Mahathir by insisting on going through with a ban on teaching mathematics and science in English. But teaching the two subjects in English is Mahathir’s prized legacy and sure enough, Mahathir straightaway issued comments that amounted to a public scolding for Muhyiddin.

Muhyiddin’s supporters had no choice but to bite the bullet.  Muhyiddin was just trying to score brownie points with the Malay electorate, they clarified, claiming that Mahathir also needed Muhyiddin to “be his horse”.

Daim, Badawi and Ku Li would prefer to back Najib

As for Daim, the former Finance minister will only support Najib because Muhyiddin is already Mahathir’s man. Daim had been caught scheming under Mahathir’s nose when he was the Finance Minister. All the banks and the rich Malays tycoons are Daim’s men. So far Najib has not dug up any dirt on Daim. Even for RM12bil  PKFZ financial debacle, Najib took pains to ensure that only the parts connected to Mahathir were revealed.

Badawi too has no choice but to support Najib because Mahathir is still mad with him for reversing several of his mega projects including the crooked bridge to Singapore. As far back as 2004, Badawi made Muhyiddin the Agriculture Minister, regarded as a lowly ministry. Even then, Badawi knew Muhyiddin was Mahathir’s man.

Despite approving the NFC cattle livestock project and awarding the stewardship of the project to the family of Shahrizat Jalil, Muhyiddin did not fully defend the debacle and he let Badawi’s son-in-law Khairy Jamaluddin answer for everything.

Mahathir is also very angry with Khairy. Mahathir also hates Rosmah. Khairy has no hope other then to align himself with Najib. Khairy was the one who defended Najib when he was accused of using public money to attend the engagement party of his daughter in Kazakhstan. Then again, if Khairy had been more tactful over the Kazakh episode, fewer people would have known of it, prompting suspicion that Khairy may be playing a “double-game”.

Nevertheless, Tengku Razaleigh or Ku Li, if given a choice between Muhyiddin and Najib, he would definitely support Najib since he also knows that Muhyiddin is Mahathir’s man.

So it looks like Mahathir and Muhyiddin are one team, while Badawi, Daim and Najib form the other team.

Mahathir Mohamad

First and foremost, Mahathir wants to wield power. He resigned with mixed feelings. He was not able to accomplish many things and was actually very reluctant to lose power. Yet he knew that he had committed too many blunders and Malaysia was going south too rapidly, he knew he must wash his hands and let someone else to take the fall.

From the economy to corruption to social integration, the judiciary to the police to the institutions, Mahathir had erred in all his decisions. He was desperate to protect his name and legacy.

He also had his sons’ future, their businesses and political careers to care about. Not to mention, his cronies and diehard supporters had to be protected too. After all they were the ones who have been relentlessly supporting him from day one until now.

Make no mistake, Mahathir still wants to hold on to power.