Can Zahid survive pressure from within and outside Umno?

“This happened within two days. First, it was on income tax recovery and second, the audio recording”

(FMT) – Umno president Ahmad Zahid Hamidi is under tremendous pressure to quit his post but some analysts believe he will survive, at least until the party holds its presidential election.

The pressure on Zahid is coming both from within and outside the party.

Political strategist Syed Arabi Idid said Zahid appeared to have solid ground support at the recent Umno annual general assembly.

However, he said, the response of Umno ministers in Muhyiddin Yassin’s Cabinet to the assembly’s decision to cut ties with PPBM and Perikatan Nasional and for them to quit their government posts, had not been well received.

The International Islamic University Malaysia professor said Zahid’s strength would only be known at the Umno presidential elections or if a vote of no confidence were to be taken against him.

Socio-political analyst Awang Azman Pawi feels recent events give the impression that both former Umno president Najib Razak and Zahid are under “political attack”.

He said the Inland Revenue Board’s move to recover RM1.74 billion in income tax arrears from 2011 to 2017 from Najib and the release of an audio recording of a purported conversation between Zahid and PKR president Anwar Ibrahim showed that government-connected hidden hands were trying to get rid of the two as soon as possible.

“This happened within two days. First, it was on income tax recovery and second, the audio recording,” he told FMT. “People may see this as a political attack,” he said.

Awang Azman said Zahid would be likely to survive as Umno had its own structure and administration and it was not easy to topple the party president, especially “from the outside.”

He said Zahid might face tremendous pressure to step down but would survive until party elections were called. Due to this situation within the party, he added, PPBM might continue to win over more Umno MPs.

An Umno insider told FMT that Zahid would survive because if the party allowed PPBM to “break Zahid”, PPBM would then have “massive power” over Umno.

“Those with cases and problems will also shake hands with Muhyiddin, and others will follow,” he told FMT.

He said this might see PPBM, which is suffering from weak grassroots support, controlling Umno and not calling a general election for another two years.

“We do not want PPBM to have control over us.”