Defections offer Muhyiddin only temporary respite, say analysts
PETALING JAYA: Muhyiddin Yassin will gain only temporary respite from the defection of two MPs from PKR as he continues to fend off challenges to his parliamentary support, say analysts.
Political scientists Azmi Hassan and Chandra Muzaffar said the support of Julau MP Larry Sng and Tebrau MP Steven Choong does not guarantee Perikatan Nasional’s continued hold on power.
The party survived crucial Dewan Rakyat votes last year with the support of 111 MPs, but two Umno members have since withdrawn support from Muhyiddin. The defection of Sng and Choong to support Muhyiddin made him “look good” but it will not be enough to save his place, the analysts said.
Muhyiddin’s bigger concern would be Umno, which has 36 MPs, with Padang Rengas MP Nazri Aziz and Machang MP Ahmad Jazlan Yaakub having retracted their support while Gua Musang MP Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah’s stand is unclear.
Azmi, formerly of Universiti Teknologi Malaysia (UTM), said it was no secret that Umno was willing to go against Muhyiddin’s party, PPBM, as some Umno men in the Cabinet had already said they would rescind their support if the party decides to.
“The more pressing issue now is what Muhyiddin needs to do in order to rope in Umno’s support. Like it or not, PPBM’s survival after the 15th general election (GE15) rests on Umno.”
Chandra said the spotlight would be on Muhyiddin’s relationship with the Umno faction led by party president Ahmad Zahid Hamidi and former prime minister Najib Razak, noting that not all of its MPs were opposed to working with PPBM.
While the two PKR MPs crossing over counterbalances the exit of the two Umno MPs, he told FMT that Muhyiddin still needs to gain a comfortable majority of between seven to 10 seats.
“I would actually look at Warisan. You can see there’s been some sort of uneasiness with the Warisan leadership in Sabah. So it’s not unlikely, given Sabah politics, that some may cross over,” he added.
He said Umno was not as united as it seemed, noting the growing role and prominence of certain party leaders and members in the government, who might not share the same views as the president.
“Ismail Sabri Yaakob has been very prominent the last few months, and he’s also a vice-president. And it seems he doesn’t share the same stand as Najib and Zahid, he’s more closely linked to Muhyiddin.
“Khairy Jamaluddin has also become prominent, because of the Covid-19 vaccination programme, which is a major event. There’s also Hishammuddin Hussein, who has always been an Umno defender, but not the Umno of Najib and Zahid.
“As we go along, with the vaccine roll-out, this faction is going to be bolder and bolder,” he predicted.
In early January, a majority of Umno divisions submitted motions urging the party to break ties with PPBM. This prompted Nazri and Jazlan to withdraw their support for PN, citing the party grassroots.
In response, the Umno Supreme Council said any decision on the party’s support for PPBM was to be finalised at its annual general assembly, which was scheduled to be held on Jan 31 but has since been postponed due to the movement control order (MCO) and the emergency.
Hishammuddin and Khairy had previously said that if the party decides to retract support for PN, they would resign from their ministerial posts.
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