Umno’s gathering is to demonstrate who is the real boss

(FMT) – The special gathering held by Umno yesterday has been described as a “show of force” aimed at pressing Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob into calling for an early general election.

It was also meant to show that Umno president Ahmad Zahid Hamidi and his predecessor, Najib Razak, were “very much in control” despite Najib being recently imprisoned, said James Chin of the University of Tasmania’s Asia Institute.

“They wanted to remind the members, especially those in the government cluster that they commanded the majority,” he told FMT.

“Government cluster” is used in political circles to describe Umno members who are part of the current government. “Court cluster” refers to personalities such as Zahid, Najib and others facing trial on various charges.

Chin said the meeting was a show of power aimed at piling pressure on Ismail, who is a party vice-president, to call for the general election as soon as possible.”

It had been previously reported that those aligned to Zahid had been pushing for the 15th general election (GE15) to be held earlier on the back of its state election victories.

However, Ismail recently hinted that the polls could be delayed owing to the recent controversy surrounding the procurement of six frigates in the littoral combat ship project.

Azmi Hassan, a senior fellow of Akademi Nusantara, echoed a similar sentiment about the special briefing, which was held for divisional leaders.

He said Ismail should set a date in line with “Umno’s wishes” as the Umno pressure on Ismail was working as the latter was “alone and without much grassroots support”.

“The gathering was to force Ismail to use his power as the prime minister (to call for the general election) and prove that he is indeed an Umno man,” Azmi said.

Azmi said while Ismail had the final say on the election, he was part of Umno, whose party leadership also dictated when Parliament should be dissolved.