October 30, 2015
To Muhyiddin Yassin: You can’t lead, if you cannot fight back
ANALYSIS by Geraldine Tong | UMNO Deputy President Muhyiddin Yassin has to fight back if he is suspended from the party, or else he will be branded a coward, a political analyst says.
“It will be humiliation for Muhyiddin, and serve as a lesson for other party members. I predict he will put up a fight if he is suspended. Not doing so will mean he’s a coward. If he doesn’t fight back, he will be seen as a loser. If he just accepts his fate, then he will be doomed. Supporters will say he does not dare to fight back,” political analyst Dr. Wong Chin Huat, a Research Fellow with Penang Institute, told Malaysiakini in an interview.
Wong’s view comes following speculation that Muhyiddin may soon be suspended as the party’s Deputy President, especially after he berated UMNO members as cowards for abandoning him after his dismissal as Deputy Prime Minister.
Wong said if the former Deputy Prime Minister is suspended from UMNO, he would not be the only victim. Several other UMNO leaders would probably be suspended as well, like the party’s Vice-President Mohd Shafie Apdal as well as UMNO veterans Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah and Dr Mahathir Mohamad, he predicts.
Up the ante and quit?
If they choose to fight back, they would most likely quit the party in a show of defiance, said Wong. However, before quitting, they might do a roadshow to gauge support for them among UMNO members as well as among members of the public. “If the support is high, then they could up the ante to fight back (by quitting),” Wong said. Muhyiddin’s suspension would not immediately affect Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak, he added.
“Suspending a few people will not change a thing. What would change the course of the game is an open split. The discontent against Najib in UMNO and (among) the Malays could well build up (with Muhyiddin’s suspension),” he said.
Fellow analyst, Dr. Terence Gomez said the current situation in UMNO is an indication of desperate times for Najib, as there appears to be a lot of unrest among the grassroots. This was made worse for Najib when Muhyiddin joined forces with several other BN veterans, such as Shafie, Tengku Razaleigh and Mahathir, at a press conference criticising 1MDB and the abuse of law under Najib’s administration, Gomez said.
“You have such senior leaders, former and present ones, coming together to take on the prime minister. This is certainly not good for him (Najib). Najib is acting to nip this all in the bud,” Gomez said. However, he warned that this situation is a double-edged sword for Najib.
Possible groundswell of dissent
If Najib does not deal with the situation, the protests on the ground may grow and dealing with it may put the Prime Minister in a more difficult position among the grassroots as well. On whether the grassroots would react badly to Muhyiddin’s suspension, Gomez noted that UMNO is a party based on patronage.
“Like Mahathir said, Najib thinks everyone can be bought. Money politics is a key feature of the party. The problem for Najib is that this is a party of three million members and there’s only so much money that he will have available for distribution to the grassroots to contain the mutiny that’s emerging from the ground,” Gomez said.
He also argued that the implications of unrest within UMNO were very serious and if not dealt with, could very likely cost the party and its BN allies, the next general election. UMNO members might think they could get away by staying silent in the short term, but they would lose out in the long term, he said.
Voters also discontented
“The discontent is not just within the party, but among the electorate as well. So they (UMNO members) have to think very carefully on how they would have to deal with this issue,” he said.
Think-tank Ideas chief executive Wan Saiful Wan Jan said suspending Muhyiddin would consolidate Najib’s position in the party – for now at least – and he agreed with the other analysts that the long-term effects could be disastrous for Najib.
“He (Najib) is setting a very bad precedent. In the future, despite him being elected as Party President, others in UMNO can also gang up against him.If the next Deputy President becomes very strong, he could also gang up with other leaders to remove the president,” Wan Saiful said.
Suspending Muhyiddin would break the party structure and respect for the party hierarchy, he said.It would also show how insecure the current leadership in the party is, which will worsen its impact on the party.
“It will perpetuate the rule of one person. It’s no longer about the supreme council or the members, it’s all about saving one person.More people will see Najib for what he is – a person who is trying desperately to consolidate his power,” Wan Saiful said.
However, he admitted that Muhyiddin lacked enough grassroots support to battle back from within the party.”I think the voices complaining against Najib will become louder (after Muhyiddin’s suspension), but I don’t think these voices will become bigger in size,” he added.
Additional reporting by Norman Goh