Zahid’s position shaky after open defiance from Sabah Umno chiefs, say analysts

(FMT) – A political analyst says Umno president Ahmad Zahid Hamidi is unlikely to back down from the decision to pick Bung Moktar Radin to spearhead the Barisan Nasional (BN) machinery in Sabah despite open defiance from division chiefs in the state.

Speaking to FMT, Kamarul Zaman Yusoff of Universiti Utara Malaysia said last night’s press conference, in which 12 Sabah Umno division chiefs objected to Bung Moktar’s appointment, was “unprecedented”.

“It is quite unprecedented that the Umno president’s decision is being questioned so openly by Umno leaders,” he said.

Last night, Umno Supreme Council member Abdul Rahman Dahlan, who led the 12, said Bung Moktar’s appointment was not discussed and, therefore, went against the full autonomy granted to the state last year.

They said they did not want a leader who had to attend court to answer corruption charges to campaign for the coalition in the Sept 26 state election.

“The question is whether Zahid consulted all the division leaders before choosing Bung (Moktar). If he did not, then the open defiance is justified,” said Kamarul.

He said the turn of events did not bode well for Umno as it raised questions on the autonomy granted to Sabah Umno.

Kamarul said he could understand why Zahid felt compelled to pick Bung Moktar as he was the state BN chairman and had remained loyal to Umno and BN despite their fall from power.

“This is a strong argument. But if Zahid agrees with Rahman’s argument that Bung (Moktar) shouldn’t lead the charge because of his corruption trial, that argument could easily be extended to him,” he said.

“There will be people who will question Zahid’s position as the head of Umno. People will ask, ‘What if the grassroots don’t want you to remain as president? What will you do?’”

This, he said, would put Zahid in a precarious position.

However, he believed Zahid would stick to his decision on Bung Moktar leading the charge.

Universiti Malaya’s Awang Azman Pawi said it was clear that the political elite in Umno were engaged in a proxy war using Bung Moktar and Rahman.

“This comes at a time when the people are struggling and the real issues are being overshadowed by a power struggle,” he said.

“I believe this will push the people to vote for Warisan and Pakatan Harapan in Sabah, not because they support them, but because they are tired of power struggles.”

But he too said Zahid would likely stick to his guns as he could not afford to look weak.