Analysts: PM may ignore Bersatu’s DPM request to avert power struggle

(Focus Malaysia) – Prime Minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob will reject Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia’s (Bersatu) request for the deputy prime minister role to secure his political future, analysts said amid yet another UMNO vs Bersatu power tussle.

Noting that UMNO will be going up against Bersatu in the upcoming general election (GE15), Nusantara Academy for Strategic Research’s Azmi Hassan said the Prime Minister will need to flex his muscles now.

“To become Barisan Nasional’s prime minister of choice come GE15, he needs to show that he is in power, so Ismail Sabri needs to demonstrate that he is capable of countering Bersatu, which he can do now by rejecting the latter’s request.

“So, in all common sense, the Prime Minister will not entertain this request due to the political ramifications,” a senior fellow, Azmi told FocusM today.

On Saturday (July 2), Bersatu president and Perikatan Nasional (PN) chairman Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin set tongues wagging when he said he met with Ismail Sabri to discuss several matters, including having a deputy prime minister.

Bersatu information chief Wan Saiful Wan Jan later claimed that this was part of a supposed agreement within PN before Ismail Sabri was appointed as prime minister last August. UMNO and PAS, the latter being a PN member, have since denied this.

Observers say Bersatu has always been sour at not having a bigger piece of the pie in the Cabinet. It is also noteworthy that Bersatu previously made Ismail Sabri, an UMNO vice-president, deputy prime minister – albeit only as a last-minute move to save Muhyiddin’s job, the then-embattled prime minister.

Azmi said Ismail Sabri should continue doing his best to convince the people that he and his current line-up of Cabinet members are capable of combating the rising inflation, so as to protect his job.

“The general public’s perception is that the Prime Minister’s hands are tied because of the internal bickering within the Federal Government, especially among UMNO, Bersatu and PAS leaders within the Cabinet.

“So, he needs to convince the people that he is in charge. That’s the only way he can prolong his tenure as prime minister,” he said, adding that it involves “a lot of convincing”.

Bersatu’s folly

Meanwhile, Singapore Institute of International Affairs senior fellow Oh Ei Sun recommended for Bersatu to take a leaf out of UMNO’s book, noting that the latter’s appointment of Ismail Sabri as deputy prime minister last year was problematic.

“That appointment put UMNO’s mainstream faction in a rather awkward and disadvantaged position,” he said. “A Bersatu deputy prime minister would similarly throw Bersatu into a power struggle that could further weaken the party.”

Azmi added that the creation of a deputy prime minister’s role will not help to address inflation and deal with the current economic situation, which is affecting everyone.

“Taking into consideration the political and economic timings, it’s a bad decision by Bersatu to raise the DPM issue now; the perception is that Bersatu is only fighting for their political survival and positions in the Federal Government.”

Azmi also noted that while Ismail Sabri is under tremendous pressure to “do the right thing”, especially with the UMNO faction “clamouring” for GE15 to be held as soon as possible growing louder, a change in administration now is not to be expected.

Oh, on the other hand, said Ismail Sabri is likely trying to delay GE15 so he could hold on to his position for as long as he can as the Bera MP may not remain long as prime minister if UMNO wins.