It looks like Malaysia will be getting a new prime minister even before
the general election, widely expected in June, is held. Embattled Prime
Minister Najib Razak may soon step down soon in favour of his deputy
Muhyiddin Yassin citing health reasons, but ultimately, the 59-year-old
Najib would be the latest casualty of their Umno party's infighting and
fear of losing the federal government to Opposition Leader Anwar Ibrahim
and the latter's Pakatan Rakyat coalition.
Over the weekend,
rumors were rife that Najib would dissolve Parliament on January 26 in a
bid to stymie a purported maneuver by Muhyddin and former premier
Mahathir Mohamad to oust him as Umno president and prime minister of the
country before the 13th GE is held.
Such talk was soon
overtaken by even hotter speculation that Najib had fallen ill.
According to Sarawak Report, doctors have been on standby all weekend.
There is little doubt the strain on Najib and his wife Rosmah Mansor
have been tremendous especially over the past few weeks when they were
both the targets of a string of shocking corruption expose's by
controversial businessman Deepak Jaikishan.
The first couple's
deafening silence to the scorching allegations as well as Najib's very
notable 'absence' from the public limelight over the past fortnight had
stirred suspicion something was up. Some even specualated that Najib may
have gone overseas for treatment.
"All we can say is that the
BN administration must immediately clarify the actual situation. We all
know something is not right when the PM doesn't seem to be around. There
is no statement issued as to his whereabouts and there are no rebuttals
to the very serious claims made by Deepak," PKR MP for Batu Tian Chua
told Malaysia Chronicle.
Banking on sympathy votes from a confused Malay electorate
Najib took over as Umno president and the country's 6th prime minister
in April 2009 after helping Mahathir and Muhyiddin to oust Abdullah
Badawi who was blamed for the Umno-BN's weak performance in the 2008
elections. Now, and rather ironically, Najib may find himself toppled in
much the same dismissive way that he had helped to pack Badawi off into
the political wilderness.
It has been an open secret that Umno
'warlords' have been tussling for seats to contest at GE13, and Najib
had used his prerogative as the decision-maker of the last resort to
maintain the upperhand. And despite the myriad 'spin' by media advisers
from both sides, it is well known that Najib and Rosmah wanted to call
for polls only after the Umno-BN's full 5-year term was up, while
Muhyiddin and Mahathir have pushed for elections to be held as early as
When Muhyddin told the press at the turn of the new
year it was better for the GE13 date to remain a 'mystery', it further
bolstered the 'conspiracy theory' circulating around town that Najib
would be bundled out soon. Muhyiddin would then take over and allow
Parliament to expire undissolved, with the pro-BN Election Commission
calling for nationwide polls only in June so as to allow the 'wounds' in
Umno time to heal and the country - especially the predominant Malay
electorate - to get used to the new PM at the helm.
banking on Muhyiddin's pro-Malay image to shore up Umno-BN's hold on
power as well as the Malays' fear of the unknown and sympathy for
Najib's illness - if indeed he is ill - to help them," said Tian.
"We are now in uncharted zone because we don't know what tricks Umno-BN
will pull to cling to power. Everything will depend on what
announcements will be made in the next few days. We will get a clearer
Ambitious Muhyiddin & 'kamikaze' Dr M
In mid-December, political sources had told Malaysia Chronicle that
Umno divisions in three states - Johor, Terengganu and Perak - had begun
the ball rolling to get Najib to step down, citing his growing
liability to the BN coalition because of his corruption scandals
expecially in connection to the Scorpene submarines and the Altantuya
The tell-tale signs that infighting had
reached a head came when rumors of racial riots were spread by several
pro-UMNO bloggers. Coming eerily hot on the heels of warnings issued by
Umno-linked leaders such as Ibrahim Ali and Shahrizat Jalil, the rumors
fueled fear of a reprisal of the May 13, 1969 racial riots that left
thousands injured and hundreds dead.
Creating public fear by
using threats of racial riots to quell citizens and stop them from
raising questions is a 'hallmark' tactic of Umno leaders to mask
internal maneuverings. The May 13 riots have been exposed as an Umno
conspiracy to oust its then president Tunku Abdul Rahman. It was a power
tussle that catapulted Najib's dad Abdual Razak Hussein and Mahathir
Mohamad into power.
As such, when the latest spate of May 13
rumours were set off recently, seasoned political watchers braced for
another 'mutiny' in the topmost ranks of the Umno leadership.
Allowing Najib to make a 'graceful' exit
Umno watchers believe that Mahathir Mohamad, the main 'puppet master'
in Umno, has decided to throw his weight behind Muhyiddin and effect an
11th-hour change in leadership although many have cautioned that such a
move may boomerang and create even greater infighting in Umno.
Hence, the 'minor stroke' rumours to allow Najib to step down
'gracefully' on health reasons. Whether or not, Najib was really ill did
not matter. As far as his rivals in Umno are concerned, poor health is
merely the vehicle for Najib to 'surrender' his power.
"Mahathir is a kamikaze fighter. He doesn't need emergency laws or any
law if he wants to do something. Look at how he dissolved the old UMNO
and re-created UMNO Baru, look at how he threw Anwar Ibrahim into jail,
declared all-out war on Abdullah Badawi," a veteran political observer
had told Malaysia Chronicle last month.
"But the option of
delaying GE13 and imposing martial law is out. The UMNO warlords know if
they do that, they will really end up with nothing but jail and infamy.
It is better to take a chance at the ballot boxes. After all, they have
already done so much gerrymandering and they have so much wealth
overseas, they might as well try their luck in the courts if the new
regime prosecutes them for plundering."
"There's no doubt
Mahathir is trying to change the PM to boost the morale in UMNO before
going straight into GE13. He has always been the biggest gambler of them
all. He is willing to put all his chips on winning big with Muhyiddin's
pro-Malay image. To do that, they will stir up Malay sentiments. So
far, there has only been rhetoric. Now we are hearing talk of racial
clashes. It is therefore possible that what happens next will be actual
incidents. The grapevine goes that they may stir up small incidents here
and there to rally the Malays together and they could do this with the
help of UMNO hot-heads and the Chinese and Indian underworld."