UMNO veteran Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah has emerged as a new player to wrest federal power from Perikatan Nasional, which enjoys only a razor-thin two-seat majority.
Sources in Umno said Tengku Razaleigh, better known as Ku Li, has been meeting his own party leaders, as well as those from Parti Warisan Sabah, Amanah and DAP to gain support for the plan.
He has also been seeking support from former prime minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad.
Sources told The Malaysian Insight that in the past few weeks, two meetings have taken place between these two political giants, once sworn enemies.
Adding fuel to the cooperation theory is a photograph circulating on social media showing Tengku Razaleigh, Dr Mahathir, his wife, Dr Siti Hasmah Mohamad Ali, and Khairuddin Abu Hassan.
An aide to Tengku Razaleigh said the photograph was taken during a dinner at the Kelantan prince’s house a month ago.
Another source close to Dr Mahathir’s new party Pejuang, said the cooperation between the two came about as both are against the leadership of Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin.
“They used to not see eye to eye but now they have a common goal,” the source said.
An Umno source added that Muhyiddin-led Bersatu’s bullying in PN against Umno, including in the tussle over the Sabah chief minister post last month, led Tengku Razaleigh to act fast.
“Tengku Razaleigh does not like Muhyiddin as there are many things done unilaterally without discussing with Umno. This has angered the veteran leader,” the source said.
The 11-term Gua Musang MP is still holding on to the belief he could be prime minister, said another source.
Astro Awani reported that Tengku Razaleigh has 24 out of Umno’s 39 MPs supporting him for the top post, including the likes of current Foreign Affairs Minister Hishammuddin Hussein, as well as Science, Technology and Innovation Minister Khairy Jamaluddin.
“The Ku Li movement has greater support among Umno MPs. At least 24 of the 39 Umno MPs support him as the prime ministerial candidate,” Awani quoted a source as saying.
The Malaysian Insight learnt this was among the topics discussed when Tengku Razaleigh had an audience with the Yang di-Pertuan Agong on Tuesday.
Interestingly, his meeting with the king came just after Anwar Ibrahim’s meeting earlier in the day.
Anwar was granted an audience with the Agong to present a list of MPs whom he said supported him.
Hours after the audience, the palace said the PKR president merely informed Al-Sultan Abdullah Ri’ayatuddin Al-Mustafa Billah Shah of the number of MPs he had but did not furnish the list of names.
Istana Negara said Sultan Abdullah advised Anwar to act according to the constitution.
Sources said Tengku Razaleigh is also confident his collaboration with Dr Mahathir will be able to garner support from Warisan, Amanah and even DAP lawmakers.
“Tengku Razaleigh is still with Umno but his leadership will be accepted by DAP,” another source said.
DAP is worried about working with a faction of Umno facing criminal charges, such as party president Ahmad Zahid Hamidi and former president Najib Razak.
Both these leaders are believed to have backed Anwar in his quest to become prime minister.
“There are two schools of thought among the grassroots. One is an outright rejection of working with anyone from Umno. The other thinks there are some elements within Umno who are acceptable.
“Either way, working together with Umno is a ‘no’ across the board,” a DAP leader said.
However, with Tengku Razaleigh throwing his hat in the ring, it changes things for DAP as the 83-year-old is seen as a clean and respected statesman more palatable to party grassroots.
“If such an alignment is to take place, it must be done in an open, honest and transparent manner in terms of governing objectives and key deliverables in government that are consensual compromises.
“It must not be a closed-door deal,” the DAP source added.
Amanah vice-president Salahuddin Ayub also met with Tengku Razeleigh after the latter’s audience with Sultan Abdullah.
The Malaysian Insight understands that Amanah is open to back Tengku Razaleigh if the Gua Musang MP manages to gather enough numbers.
No public support
However, Universiti Malaya’s Prof Dr Awang Azman Awang Pawi said the Tengku Razaleigh-Dr Mahathir combination would not get very far as they do not have public support.
“People do not want Dr Mahathir at all in the picture. It would not get the support of the people.
“This is only a move by Dr Mahathir to clearly block Anwar from becoming prime minister,” he told The Malaysian Insight.
The political scientist added that Tengku Razaleigh, who is chairman of the Umno advisory council, has no grassroots support in the party and will not be able to sway many lawmakers to be with him.
“He has no following in Umno. This will pose a problem even if Umno lawmakers are thinking of it. The majority in Umno not in favour of PN also rejects this combination,” he said.
Last week, The Malaysian Insight reported that Umno was split, with one group being happy with PN and another – mostly leaders with graft charges – against them wanting to quit the makeshift coalition.
Umno this week threatened to pull out of PN if the party’s terms were not met. Party secretary-general Ahmad Maslan said the terms will be spelt out in writing to Muhyiddin and has to be expedited as soon as possible.
Muhyiddin’s PN government has been in power since March.
THE MALAYSIAN INSIGHT