Analysts mixed on Ismail’s future after constitution amendment

Ismail Sabri Yaakob’s future as prime minister appears to be hanging in the balance after Umno unanimously voted to allow party elections to be further postponed until after a general election.

(FMT) – One political analyst believes the decision puts party president Ahmad Zahid Hamidi “firmly in charge” and opens the way for the “mainstream faction” of the party to have Ismail replaced eventually.

However, another analyst says Ismail’s future was now secure as the party has already named him to be the prime ministerial candidate at the coming general election, with no challengers in sight.

On Sunday, Umno voted unanimously to amend its constitution to allow the party elections to be postponed by up to 18 months, or up to six months after a general election.

The party elections, for the 2021-2023 term, had already been postponed from June 30 last year and were due to be held by Dec 30 this year.

Oh Ei Sun.

Further postponement, which must be approved by the registrar of societies, would leave Zahid in a position, as Umno president and BN chairman, to decide on general election candidates.

Oh Ei Sun of the Singapore Institute of International Affairs said the constitutional amendment meant Ismail’s days as prime minister were numbered.

“Umno is going to win quite big (at the general election) this time, so all these new Umno MPs will be loyal to Zahid and the mainstream faction of Umno,” he said, which also included former prime minister Najib Razak.

“That means that Ismail’s days are basically numbered. They don’t like him, to put it bluntly. So they are likely, at some point, to replace him with either themselves, or somebody of their liking.”

However, Azmi Hassan of Akademi Nusantara said neither Zahid nor Najib have publically admitted any desire to contest for the prime minister’s seat.

Azmi Hassan.

Umno’s Supreme Council had also unanimously agreed to propose Ismail as Barisan Nasional’s candidate to be the next prime minister.

Azmi said it was Ismail, who is one of Umno’s three vice-presidents, who seconded the motion to amend the constitution, tabled by another vice-president, Khaled Nordin.

“It just goes to show that although he is a vice-president, his position as the future PM is secure,” said Azmi.

The next general election must be held the latest by mid-September 2023, but Umno has been pushing for it to be held earlier to take advantage of the momentum it gained after convincing wins at the Melaka and Johor state elections.