NEWS ANALYSIS BY THE MALAYSIAN INSIDER
29 February 2016
Reactions are coming in fast and furious from all quarters since Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad announced that he had quit Umno – the second time he had done so since 2008.
His supporters believe this announcement will shake Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak while his critics say good riddance to a has-been. The Malaysian Insider attempts to make sense of Dr Mahathir’s move and sort out the fact from the hyperbole.
The reality is Dr Mahathir knows that he no longer has the influence or the levers of power in Umno to force Najib’s resignation.
So, he needed to leave the ruling party and be part of some national movement to oust the man he backed wholeheartedly for the premiership in 2008. If he had remained in Umno, he would have been little more than an outspoken 90-something-year-old blogger.
Harsh? Perhaps. But could the once powerful leader do anything to stop his son being removed as the Kedah menteri besar or prevent Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin from being suspended by the Umno Supreme Council?
The answer is a short no. Both have been sidelined and out of power, remaining only as divisional leaders in Pagoh and Jerlun, respectively. Another one left at the wayside is vice-president Datuk Seri Shafie Apdal, the Semporna division chief.
They are but three of the 193 divisional leaders in Umno. A minority against the rest who have stuck to Najib’s side in this showdown between the grand old man of Malaysian politics and the son of the man who brought him back into Umno.
The question is then, will Najib be losing sleep tonight?
Unlikely. The prime minister knows that as long as Umno Supreme Council and the bulk of division chiefs are with him, it will be difficult to dislodge him from his position as the Umno president, and by virtue of that, the prime minister of Malaysia.
Having said that, he would have preferred facing a fractured and rudderless opposition bloc instead of one with some semblance of unity and purpose.
So expect Umno’s warlords to circle the wagons around Najib as Dr Mahathir tries to whip up a semblance of a coalition among the critics against Najib.
And own up, did anyone ever believe that they would live to see Dr Mahathir share the same platform as his political nemesis and the man he jailed under Ops Lallang, Lim Kit Siang?
Apparently this is in the pipeline with Dr Mahathir saying that he would be part of a group comprising DAP, PKR and Amanah, out to oust Najib from office.
Dr Mahathir with Datuk Seri Mohamed Azmin Ali, Rafizi Ramli, Lim Guan Eng, Mohamed Sabu against Najib and Umno. Desperate measures for desperate times?
Or is Dr Mahathir just reverting to old playbook. In 2008, he quit Umno in protest against Tun Abdullah Badawi’s government and teamed up with a band of bloggers against the administration.
But the move is not likely to shake Najib’s standing in Umno but setting up of core could unify forces against the prime minister, something the fractious Pakatan Rakyat or Harapan have been unable to do.
Yet, it remains to be seen if this grand coalition can take off.
After all, why would anyone else listen to Dr Mahathir when even his own party has decided to turn their backs on him these past year. – February 29, 2016.