Umno’s hands were tied, had to name Ismail as PM candidate, say analysts

Umno had little choice but to propose vice-president Ismail Sabri Yaakob as its candidate for prime minister for the 15th general election (GE15), with two analysts agreeing that the party had its “hands tied” over the matter.

Azmi Hassan.

(FMT) – Akademi Nusantara senior fellow (strategic research) Azmi Hassan said that in terms of the party’s strategy, the Umno Supreme Council’s decision yesterday to name Ismail as its prime ministerial candidate came as no surprise.

“Umno have their hands tied,” Azmi told FMT. “Ismail is the current prime minister, and not naming him as their candidate for GE15 would not look good on them.

“I also think it’s good to name him as this will cool down the internal politics within Umno.”

While he acknowledged that Umno deputy president Mohamad Hasan’s name had been mentioned as a potential party candidate for prime minister, Azmi noted that the former Negeri Sembilan menteri besar had never been an MP, and he had never expressed hope for the top spot himself.

Stressing that the Rantau assemblyman would make a capable prime minister, Azmi said that nominating Mohamad would look as if Umno was “trying to discard Ismail”.

James Chin.

James Chin of the University of Tasmania’s Asia Institute said Umno did not have too many choices as to who to nominate considering the court cases party president Ahmad Zahid Hamidi and former prime minister Najib Razak were facing.

Calling Ismail the “acceptable face of Umno” in view of the duo’s corruption cases, he said it “doesn’t cost Umno anything” to nominate Ismail, and that it would also send a signal of stability and continuity.

Chin also pointed out that as the prime minister, it was up to Ismail to advise the Yang di-Pertuan Agong on the dissolution of Parliament, which would pave the way for fresh elections.

“If you don’t name Ismail as the candidate for prime minister, why would he bother going to the King and getting himself out of a job?” he said.

“So, in some ways, their (Umno’s) hands are tied.”