PKR vice-president Rafizi Ramli has speculated that the appointment of Hishammuddin Hussein as a special functions minister does not bode well for Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi’s political ambition.
Speaking to Malaysiakini soon after the announcement was made, Rafizi described the move as being tantamount to Hishammuddin securing a direct endorsement from his cousin, Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak.
“This is either because Hishammuddin intends to challenge Zahid for the Umno deputy president post or Hishammuddin is struggling to defend his position as Umno vice-president,” he added.
Rafizi claimed that based on information from his Umno sources, Hishammuddin was trailing behind Rural and Regional Development Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob as well as Sports and Youth Minister Khairy Jamaluddin in the race for vice-presidency.
“Either way, this is not a good sign for Zahid because a promotion like this – a minister with two portfolios – is a direct sign of endorsement,” he added in reference to Hishammuddin’s current position as defence minister.
Rafizi also believes the public would not accept the appointment, as it meant that Hishammuddin would be drawing double salaries.
He also speculated on the possible cracks within Umno over this development.
“As far as national politics is concerned, small cracks within Umno may translate into a much bigger split closer to election because Zahid and Hisham, each of them have their list of candidates to contest.
“If Najib endorses Hishammuddin openly like this, it can mean Hishammuddin will have more of his people on the candidacy list to prepare for the internal party election that will give an upper hand to him compared to Zahid.
“Either way this may mean a lot of sabotage and internal fights within Umno. It means the contest for GE14 is as open as ever,” he added.
Earlier today, Najib announced Hishammuddin’s appointment, which takes immediate effect.
The source said Hishammuddin’s tasks would include assisting the prime minister and deputy prime minister, but did not elaborate on this.
Meanwhile, DAP stalwart Lim Kit Siang said Hishammuddin has become the second most powerful person in the Umno and BN with his appointment.
“Hishammuddin may not be the deputy prime minister but he has clearly become the second most powerful person in the Umno/BN government,” Lim said in a statement today.
He also claimed Hishammuddin’s appointment also marks that Najib had lost confidence not only in Zahid, but also in other Umno stalwarts.