Analysts: More bark than bite with Muhyiddin, Mukhriz outside Umno

Muhyiddin Mukhriz

Hornbill Unleashed

Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin and Datuk Seri Mukhriz Mahathir are unlikely to make a major dent in their campaign to oust Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak now that both have been booted from Umno, according to political analysts.

Without any government position or even a role in the country’s biggest political party, pundits told Malay Mail Online that former deputy prime minister Muhyiddin and ex-Kedah mentri besar Mukhriz are effectively mute and will not be able to sway Malaysians to join their cause, similar to former prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad whose influence has diminished after quitting Umno.

“[The effect will be] very minimal. Even Dr Mahathir could not make much of a difference, what more the two?” said Dr Oh Ei Sun, a senior fellow at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies in Singapore.

Muhyiddin, who was Umno deputy president, and Mukhriz, who was its Jerlun division chief, were expelled last Friday, putting an end to their year-long dissent against Najib’s leadership of the party and federal government.

Dr Faisal Hazis, associate professor at the Institute of Malaysian and International Studies in Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia, pointed out that neither Muhyiddin nor Mukhriz wielded as much influence as Mukhriz’s father Dr Mahathir, whose authority was already weakening.

“Even Dr Mahathir’s influence has waned off already. And you’re talking about Mahathir, someone who some people have such high respect for, even today.

“I don’t think they’ll be able to rally support of the people after even Mahathir failed to do so,” he said, noting the increased vote majority for Barisan Nasional (BN) in the two recent parliamentary by-elections in Sungai Besar and Kuala Kangsar.

It marked the first time Dr Mahathir had actively stumped for the opposition, but Parti Amanah Negara’s candidates were defeated in both seats.

Merdeka Center director Ibrahim Suffian believed Muhyiddin and Mukhriz might still have a little bit of influence, but only if the test came down to the wire.

“Mukhriz and Muhyiddin can help with the threshold votes in a sense that they cannot move more than 5 per cent of the votes.

“In other words, if the opposition had 45 per cent of the votes, these are the people who will be enablers of victory,” the head of the independent public poll and research institute said.

But Dr Ooi Kee Beng, deputy director of Singapore-based Institute of Southeast Asian Studies’ Yusof Ishak Institute, believes the younger Mukhriz at 51 may still bounce back in his future political career compared to 69-year-old Muhyiddin.

“Mukhriz more than Muhyiddin can be a factor. The latter has been too lame in opposing Najib,” he said.

He also noted troubles within Kedah Umno, Mukhriz’s home, which the state opposition led by PAS could use to oust the ruling government and reclaim the state it had controlled briefly for one term after Election 2008.

Ooi forecasted that the Umno national leadership will expand its resources in Johor to contain any potential threat from Muhyiddin, who is still Pagoh MP, and to defend it against the opposition.

Between DAP and PKR, the opposition had made some inroads into the southern state in the 2013 general elections, winning five out of 26 parliamentary seats.

“The present Umno leadership in Kedah is also weak, while in Johor, I assume a lot of resources will be invested by Umno to limit the damage. The opposition will try their best in both cases of course,” Ooi said in an email interview.

Muhyiddin and Mukhriz have said they are contemplating setting up new political platforms to continue their campaign against Najib, but have yet to state clearly if it means establishing a new political party.