Political stability starts with unity within each party, say analyst

Political stability in the country must start with unity within each political party, analysts opined.

(NST) – With this in mind, they said the current structure where the prime minister is in the lower rung of the top five Umno hierarchy while the party president is not holding Putrajaya’s top post could lead to further instability.

As it is, Universiti Malaya political analyst Dr Mohammad Tawfik Yaakub said the disharmony within Umno was evident following party president Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi’s veiled swipes against Prime Minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob on certain matters.

One of them was on the timing of the 15th general election, where despite Zahid urging Ismail Sabri to dissolve the parliament by year end, the prime minister had made no decision on the matter.

If such discord continues within Umno, Tawfik questioned if the party’s main manifesto for GE15, which is for the country to achieve political stability, could be realised.

“Stability must start with Umno and the party must look at how it can strengthen its leadership.

“This is the first time in Umno’s history where the party president is not the prime minister. This is a big challenge to Zahid who only has powers to manage the party but not in the federal administration.

“This can’t happen in Umno. Can Zahid as the party president simply allow his vice-president (Ismail Sabri) to build his political empire and eventually unseat the president himself?” he told the New Straits Times.

Due to his corruption charges, Zahid and Umno have decided not to nominate the party president as the prime minister candidate for GE15.

Instead, Umno decided that Ismail Sabri would be the party’s poster boy.

In the last one year Ismail Sabri helming the federal government, peace within Umno had been put into question although party leaders have denied any claims of infighting or the existence of different factions in the party.

Universiti Utara Malaysia political analyst Prof Dr Mohd Azizuddin Mohd Sani pointed out that continued discord would be unhealthy for the party.

He said as the prime minister whose priority should be on nation-building, Ismail Sabri could not afford to be seen as being controlled by his party president.

Without the ability to accept and respect each other, he said Umno would be open to more crises in the future.

“If they can compromise, then we can expect stability. It will be difficult for Ismail Sabri to deliver if he is in constant disagreement with the party president.

“Umno must remember that the public is watching. If the party is unstable, the voters will opt for an alternative solution,” he said.

Aside from Zahid, Umno deputy president Datuk Seri Mohamad Hasan is also seen as one of the top leaders who aspire to be the next party president, and subsequently the prime minister.

However, given his lack of experience in federal administration, a fellow at the Institution of Malay Rulers Chair, Universiti Teknologi Mara Mujibu Abdul Muis said Mohamad may want to remain in his current position to first strengthen himself.

“Mohamad needs a strong team if he wants to enter national politics. He never held any cabinet position or even become a member of parliament.

“Of course, the Umno grassroots favour Mohamad but to be able to become the prime minister, he may need to stay in the top Umno hierarchy for a little while longer like others have,” he said.

Despite Umno leaders naming Ismail Sabri as the party’s prime minister candidate for GE15, observers have pointed to a recent event during the March Johor state election where such a promise could easily be broken.

After two weeks of promising that Johor Umno chief Datuk Hasni Mohammad would be the next Menteri Besar, Barisan Nasional changed its mind after winning the polls and named Datuk Onn Hafiz Ghazi instead.

National Professors Council senior fellow Dr Jeniri Amir reminded Umno that a promise made to the voters must be kept to prevent anger among the people.

“Umno has made this promise public, that Ismail Sabri is the poster boy. Since the announcement has already been made, the party must keep this promise.

“If they break this promise, it sends a signal that Umno leaders can’t be trusted and this is an unhealthy message to be sent out to all Malaysians,” he said.