Zahid v Ismail Sabri bout on the cards come Umno polls next year
Current president has much stronger grassroots backing, but to underestimate new PM’s sway in party a grave mistake
(The Vibes) – Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi’s sigh of relief must have reverberated across the Umno headquarters here when the Registrar of Societies on Monday reversed its decision to invalidate the party’s polls postponement.
Matters were aggravated by RoS’ decision early last month to declare the postponement of Umno’s elections – which had been due on June 30 this year – invalid.
As circumstances would have it, Muhyiddin was later forced to resign as prime minister on August 16, and Umno vice-president Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob rose through the ranks to take over the reins.
Within a few days, RoS allowed the party polls deferment.
For now, the move appears to favour Zahid, as he has his position secured for at least the next 15 months. This is not to say he will lose his presidency if the party elections are to be held now, but the postponement allows him some breathing space as he consolidates his position and power.
Both Zahid and Ismail Sabri previously served as deputy prime minister.
It is expected that Zahid will offer to defend his seat when Umno does head to the polls next year, but Ismail Sabri’s rise to prominence means he will look to vie for the party’s top post, a prospect political observers see as likely.
According to pundits, Zahid may have, by far, the stronger grassroots support, but it will be a grave mistake if he underestimates the new prime minister, who now has the government’s machinery and resources at his pleasure.
Ismail Sabri likely to lead faction against Zahid’s
Speaking to The Vibes, Universiti Malaya’s Prof Awang Azman Awang Pawi said if the two do pit against each other, it could come down to who between them can better convince Umno members that he is the right man to take the party forward.
For Ismail Sabri, this can be through his policies as prime minister, while Zahid will have to show the direction in which he leads Umno.
“I see both having their own strengths. Zahid has access to the grassroots, Umno Supreme Council, bureau politics, and divisional and branch leaders. Ismail Sabri, on the other hand, has the resources of the government and its machinery to pull support to his side,” said Awang Azman.
“It will be down to what lengths they make use of these benefits,” he said, adding that the outcome of the next general election, if held earlier than the party polls, could also have a bearing on the result of the presidential race.