WHAT DOES THIS MEAN FOR AHMAD ZAHID?
The UMNO president is also facing several graft charges in court.
Following a string of electoral successes at the state level, he has repeatedly urged Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob to dissolve parliament and hold fresh elections. However, there are signs of differing positions within UMNO on whether parliament should be dissolved soon.
Political analyst Professor Mohd Azizuddin Sani of Universiti Utara Malaysia (UUM) told CNA: “With UMNO already divided, (Ahmad) Zahid would be feeling lonelier without Najib. Najib used to support him. He and his deputy (Mohamad Hasan) will need to mobilise the party now.”
Prof Azizuddin noted that the posturing for elections has been going on intensively and would continue.
“The meeting on Monday was to push the PM to dissolve the parliament,” he said in reference to a last-minute meeting of UMNO division heads.
Commenting on the gathering, the prime minister told foreign media including CNA on Monday: “The party (UMNO) can give its opinion (but) whatever happens outside will not disturb my concentration to work for the country. Because I have a job to do here, which is to handle the welfare of the nation and the country.”
UMNO secretary-general Ahmad Malan tweeted that there would be another briefing by Ahmad Zahid this Saturday about “current issues”. The division committee members and leaders have been asked to attend the session.
The elections must be called by September next year.
Political scientist Professor Wong Chin Huat of Sunway University also said that Ahmad Zahid’s position is clearly weaker after Najib’s imprisonment. He added that many local leaders who back Najib are expected to gradually shift their allegiance to Mr Ismail Sabri.
“The same would happen to Zahid if he is convicted in the weeks to come. Najib’s and Zahid’s supporters are networks of patronage which are hard to sustain without a prospect of returning to power in a short time,” he told CNA.
Dr Oh Ei Sun, a political analyst with the Singapore Institute of International Affairs (SIIA), believes that the pressure exerted by UMNO on Mr Ismail Sabri to hold elections as soon as possible will continue relentlessly, with a not-so-secret aim towards removing him as the prime minister after that.
“This is so that a more pliant replacement more to Zahid’s liking could be instituted,” he said, while not discounting the possibility of Ahmad Zahid becoming the prime minister.