PETALING JAYA: With several corruption charges hanging over his head, Umno president Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi (pix) may be hard pressed to keep a hold on power in his own party.
This has been made very clear by the unrestrained airing of views, including those critical of the leadership, by delegates during the party general assembly over the weekend.
“The court cases have made Ahmad Zahid a lame duck president, and there seems to be a lot of disagreements among the top leaders,” senior fellow at the Malaysian Council of Professors Dr Jeniri Amir told theSun.
“In the long term, this will hurt the party,” he added.
He was commenting on the many statements by party leaders that are contrary to Ahmad Zahid’s tone.
Jeniri said these other leaders “are taking advantage of the situation (Ahmad Zahid’s legal problems) to set their own agenda.
He pointed out that unlike Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad in his days, and even immediate past president Datuk Seri Najib Razak, Ahmad Zahid is unable to exert such power over the party.
“Something needs to be done to rein in these leaders as their constant disagreements seem to have affected the party,” he said.
“If Umno continues down this road, it will be shooting itself in the leg,” he added.
Jeniri said action must be taken quickly to stem the tide if Umno is to return with a strong showing in the next general election.
“People are unlikely to vote for a party whose leaders can’t seem to agree with each other and have views that are not aligned with the grassroots,” he said.
“Umno is now a rudderless party, with no real direction as no one is in full control,” he added.
He pointed out that the party was already weighed down by Najib’s 1Malaysia Development Bhd scandal in the last polls, and with Ahmad Zahid facing the same problem, it could cost the party many votes.
“One option for the party is to make way for (deputy president) Datuk Seri Mohamad Hasan,” he said.
Jeniri said Mohamad, popularly known as “Tok Mat”, has shown that he is capable of leading the party when it faced some of its darkest hours when Ahmad Zahid took a leave of absence because of his court cases.
“Umno needs a strong and charismatic leader who is not tainted and has fresh ideas on how to take the party forward, if it wants a strong showing in the next general election,” he added.
Political analyst Lim Teck Ghee pointed out Ahmad Zahid and his allies are fighting for much more than their political lives.
He said voters, including Umno’s faithful, should expect that all deals will be on the table to ensure their survival.