Speculations on the implications of Hishammuddin Hussein’s new cabinet portfolio are unfounded and amusing, said Youth and Sports Minister Khairy Jamaluddin Abu Bakar.
“All the speculations, whether or not the speculation involving the prime minister (Najib Abdul Razak), deputy prime minister (Ahmad Zahid Hamidi), the upcoming Umno elections are completely unfounded, because we are all in support of the appointment.
“We need a strong senior leadership team to face the upcoming general election.
“Within Umno, we are quite amused by all the speculations and analyses that you have all been doing, because it is rather straightforward,” he told a press conference in Putrajaya today.
On Wednesday, Najib made the surprise announcement that Hishammuddin now had the additional portfolio of Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department in charge of special functions.
This sparked off speculations that Najib was trying to raise Hishammuddin’s profile, possibly to either replace or supercede Zahid.
There was also speculation that Hishammuddin was given the boost to ensure his survival in the next Umno party elections.
Hishammuddin had almost lost his Umno vice-presidency in 2013, winning only 100 division votes, just nine ahead of runner-up Mukhriz Mahathir.
Khairy said Najib had informed the cabinet about the move during their meeting on Wednesday, and it received the cabinet’s full support.
He added response from the grassroots about Hishammuddin’s appointment has also been positive after Zahid voiced his support for the move, and it was explained that this would strengthen the party.
On speculation that he would be contesting to become one of Umno’s three vice-presidents, the sitting Youth chief said: “I’ll answer that after the general election.”
The Umno party elections have been postponed until 2018.
The general election must be held by May next year, although speculation is rife that it may be held sometime this year.