Umno still a ‘Zahid-Najib’ show, say analysts

Jeniri Amir says appointment of trio to Supreme Council intended to strengthen Ahmad Zahid Hamidi’s position and appease Najib Razak loyalists.

(FMT) – Yesterday, Zahid announced the appointments of Azalina, Asyraf and Shahrizat to the party’s Supreme Council.

Asyraf also replaced Supreme Council member Ahmad Maslan as the party’s secretary-general, while Azalina replaced Isham Jalil as information chief.

Significantly, the Umno president overlooked former prime minister and party vice-president Ismail Sabri Yaakob.

Ismail has been critical of Zahid’s leadership in the past, said Jeniri. His exclusion was tantamount to the party president “shutting the door” on his critics, he explained.

“Zahid does not want enemies within,” Jeniri said, warning those who have rallied behind Ismail that their prospects within the party were now bleak.

James Chin of the University of Tasmania agreed that the appointments clearly show collaboration between Zahid and Najib.

Ismail’s absence was unsurprising, he said, given that he was opposed to Umno working with Pakatan Harapan.

“Ismail defied Zahid and Najib’s wishes for early elections when he was the prime minister. They wanted the general election to be held not long after the Johor state elections when momentum was with the party.

“So, Khairy is right, it is a ‘Zahid and Najib’ show. Najib is still influential in Umno,” he told FMT.

Chin warned that Zahid and Najib could lose control of the party if Umno fares poorly in the coming state elections.

Grassroots may well push for a change in leadership to revive the party’s fortunes, he said.