Big push for polls begins tonight
PETALING JAYA: It could be D-day today – the day when the long-awaited decision is made on when exactly Parliament will be dissolved.
Although Prime Minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob has the final say on dissolution, he has already said that he would accede to the wishes of the “top five”.
The top five refers to Umno president Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, deputy president Datuk Seri Mohamad Hasan, and three vice-presidents – Datuk Seri Mohamed Khaled Nordin, Datuk Seri Mahdzir Khalid and Ismail Sabri himself.
Mohamad, or Tok Mat as he is known, however, was non-committal about tonight’s meeting.
“This is how it is normally done. The top five and political bureau meetings usually centre on current issues and party management, which will then be further discussed at the supreme council meeting,” he said.
Umno secretary-general Datuk Seri Ahmad Maslan concurred.
“The monthly supreme council meeting is at 8pm tomorrow. Umno holds many meetings. We do not have to inform everyone of all the meetings,” he said yesterday.
Khaled also played his cards close to his chest.
“Only the president knows what is on the agenda,” he said.
On the call by Perikatan Nasional chairman Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin for the Prime Minister to consult his coalition – Barisan Nasional’s partners in government – before dissolving, Khaled brushed it off: “Anyone can say anything.”
Talk of an early dissolution heated up with Ismail Sabri’s trip to the UN General Assembly in New York last week. His entourage included Umno leaders aligned to the rest of the top five.
“Many of those who were with him were those who had pushed for snap polls. It was definitely not just a ‘makan angin’ trip. The discussions in the private jet would have set the tone for Friday’s meeting,” said an Umno leader.
A supreme council member, who declined to be named, said that he was quite sure the top five would come to a consensus tonight.
He expected dissolution by Oct 10 – just after Budget 2023 is tabled.
“Unless there is a big flood nationwide before the meeting, the top five will definitely give the go-ahead as we cannot wait any longer this year.
“The Prime Minister is stable and, despite the opposition from other parties in his government, he seems to be in full control.
“Furthermore, the acquittal of Ahmad Zahid on corruption charges has boosted the Umno president after the jolt that came from the conviction of former prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak.”
(Najib is serving a 12-year jail sentence after being convicted of charges relating to the 1MDB scandal while Ahmad Zahid has been acquitted of 40 charges of corruption in connection with the foreign visa system. He is still on trial for 47 counts of corruption in another case.)
Political analyst Prof Dr Sivamurugan Pandian of Universiti Sains Malaysia said it was time for the Prime Minister to quit playing the guessing game.
“The top five Umno leaders must decide once and for all when to dissolve Parliament. This guessing game has created uncertainty for almost seven months now.
“Regardless of November this year or March next year, or even July 2023, just announce it so that those involved can get on with their plans,” he said.
Prof Sivamurugan pointed out that it was the Prime Minister’s prerogative to decide on the date of dissolution, but Ismail Sabri had himself wanted to consult the Umno “top five” before going to the Yang di-Pertuan Agong to dissolve Parliament.
Over the past few months, Ahmad Zahid and many Umno leaders have been calling for snap polls this year, but Cabinet members, especially those from Perikatan and Gabungan Parti Sarawak, have been hesitant.
They felt that holding a general election now would not be wise as it would be the monsoon season, which could see floods.
Floods or not, it looks likely that the loud calls within Umno for early elections will drown out those who want to wait.
We should know for sure tonight.