Monday, December 4, 2023

And, then the game changed?

The political excitement in November was PN MPs switching support to PMX. PN was taming the build-up in perception that PPBM is breaking apart, PAS imposing their will, and Muhyiddin on the way out. 

Suddenly Zahid Hamidi was reported to undergo surgery for a serious illness and Raja Petra stated a perception play that Hishamuddin will takeover leadership of UMNO to pullout of the Unity Government and switchover enbloc to PN.    

Then came Kemaman by-election and Dato Dr Samsuri's victory by more than 37,000. Suddenly, the conversation is of him as PAS candidate for PMXI to replace Anwar Ibrahim sooner than GE16.

How the game changed so fast. But has anyone asked if the realisation of the Green Wave dream be for the better?

Muhyiddin resignation

In the middle of November, this blog uploaded a poser to ask what is Hamzah up to for not negotiating the Parlimentarian allocation. In the subsequent posting, the question is asked whether Hamzah is behind the crossover to pressure Muhyidddin to resign.   

Few days after the posting and during PPBM's 2023 convention in Shah Alam, Muhyiddin announced he will not defend the Presidency to only did a U-turn on the last days to announce he will remain and cited his wife's insistence as the reason for the decision. 

There are those who see it as an old ploy of an incumbent to fend off and kill the enthusiasm of any possible challengers. However, analysts feel it will not and more so, with Bukit Gantang lending support to Anwar the following week. 

Khairy is of the opinion it was genuine intention, but quarters in the party believe a contest will split and decimate the party thus Muhyiddin was still needed. 

In the midst of those lamenting the state of the Malay political parties as concluded from the PKR and PPBM convention over the weekend, few days later and words are out that Zahid Hamidi's operation was to remove tumour and it is said to be at an advance stage. 

At the Kemaman by-election, KJ-described chess game changer choice of Terengganu MB, Dr Samsuri as PAS candidate

On the last stretch, it takes a new turn when Muhyiddin endorsed him as a plausible PM in the making as posed at the end of this blog's posting here

Despite the fifth MP from PPBM switching support for Anwar Ibrahim, has the game changed with Dr Sam's 37,000 majority victory on Saturday? 

Zahid's operation

Joceline Tan on Zahid's operation first:

Zahid’s retirement - for real or testing the wind?

The Star Saturday, 02 Dec 2023

THE health of Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi has been a trending topic amid speculation that he may be riding into the sunset.

Politicians love publicity but matters surrounding their health tend to be shrouded in secrecy.

No details were made available about the nature of his health issues apart from the fact that he had surgery but he has returned to work. But when information is withheld, rumours ferment and there have been unverified claims that it is prostate cancer.

Well, the thing is that Ahmad Zahid has never looked better going by the photos he has posted on social media.

He looked rested and relaxed when Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim called on him at his Country Heights home. The photo of the pair looking so cosy, seated on matching leather armchairs was a powerful signal of the trust and friendship between them.

The Umno president is Anwar’s most reliable link to Umno or, as a news portal put it, the “master key to the Madani government’s survival”.

Should Anwar be worried about Ahmad Zahid stepping off the political stage? Will whoever come after Ahmad Zahid be as supportive of PMX or as enthusiastic about the unity government?

The Umno president has also been hinting of retirement intentions at his “Jelajah Akar Umbi” sessions. These closed-door sessions are for him to meet the division grassroots to explain what the party is going through and what lies ahead.

“The signals are expressed differently at different places but it does suggest that he is aware that it is time to call it a day,” said a key aide to a Johor leader.

Ahmad Zahid picked a Deepavali event at his Bagan Datuk home base to drop the first hint that he may be at the end of his service after seven terms as their MP. But the old fox that he is, he added a caveat that Bagan Datuk must first be developed and achieve zero poverty.

According to the Johor aide, Ahmad Zahid knows the Umno grassroots expects to hear something new in his divisional tour.

Knowing that they are bored with the same old story about supporting Anwar and the unity government, he lets secretary-general Datuk Seri Dr Asyraf Wajdi Dusuki warm up the audience before he himself steps up with something different for the crowd to chew on.

Supreme council member Datuk Seri Alwi Che Ahmad, a guest at the Jelebu division gathering, was taken aback when Ahmad Zahid alluded to retiring.

Ahmad Zahid told the Jelebu audience that he wished to see Umno win 70-80 seats in the next general election. He said if Umno is able to come back as the biggest bloc, it can reclaim the prime minister post and “we will be the PM again”.

Then he added ever so casually: “When that time comes, it won’t be me.”

“Zahid knows our worry is the Malays outside of Umno who want to see Umno change and correct itself. He is thinking ahead, his good friend is now the PM, his court cases are settled and he needs to look after his health.

“He is sending a good signal but we must not push him. He is not going tomorrow but when he is ready,” said Alwi.

Ahmad Zahid and Alwi, who is the former Kok Lanas assemblyman, enjoy a certain camaraderie and during an event in Gua Musang last month, both men exchanged tips on how they coped with their respective back problems.

“Retirement may not be a dirty word because Umno’s survival rests on a new leadership. Zahid understands his limitations. He’s been in politics long enough to know he is unpopular.

“He retained his seat by just a few hundred votes and loud boos from the crowd at the recent Motor GP event were all too real,” said political commentator Ivanpal S. Grewal.

According to Ivanpal, it will present a chance for Umno to renew and remake itself into a party that is more representative of what Malaysia has become.

“Umno lacks dynamism after so many years in power. But if Zahid goes, change is inevitable and it is up to the new leadership to go as far as it can to restore the party,” said Ivanpal.

The question is who is the leader that can lead the party to recovery?

“The timeline may not be determined by Zahid or even Umno. It is an open secret that everyone is talking about what will happen when the new king arrives in town,” said the above aide to a Johor leader.

The political instability of the past few years has seen the royal houses assume a more assertive role and the Johor Sultan is bound to bring his own style and opinions.

Those in the corridors of power claim that Ahmad Zahid’s reported political exit may have something to do with the rotation of the throne. It is also in this context that there is speculation of a soft landing for Ahmad Zahid in the form of an appointment as the next Governor of Melaka where his wife was born.

Meanwhile, a different kind of whispering is going on in the corridors of the Umno headquarters at Menara Dato Onn.

“What I am hearing is that if Ahmad Zahid does go off, there ought to be a mini party election for the posts of president and deputy president,” said the above aide to a Johor Umno leader.

The last party election in March saw Ahmad Zahid and Datuk Seri Mohamed Hasan retain their posts without a contest, causing dissatisfaction within the rank-and-file. The logic is that the next president must be elected by the party grassroots. Only with such a mandate will he earn the respect and support of the party members.

However, said lawyer and Umno politician Ainul Aizat Ahmad Ishak, it is complicated because hierarchy is important in a party like Umno and the president has always stressed procedures.

Asyraf confirmed that the Umno president will resume his tour of the Umno divisions next week. Will he drop more hints in the coming months or will he change his mind about going?

It ought to be stressed that Ahmad Zahid’s exit will not deliver a miraculous recovery for Umno and it is a long and winding road ahead for the party. 

PAS next government?

After Kemaman landslide, Sarawak owned Focus Malaysia is extending its speculation to warn Chinese and urban/liberal to come to term with an impending change of government led by PAS, in which Hadi Awang described as hacking the roof (tebuk attap):

If we buy in the “incendiary rhetorics” of DAP to be confrontational to everything or everyone in PAS like what DAP did in the past under the ABU or Asalkan Bukan UMNO campaign, what if post GE16 DAP embraced and married into PAS because the groom is Dr Sam?

What is our “Plan B” or do we continue to smack our face or bian lian again? Indeed, DAP had mastered the Chinese dramatic art of bian lian. They give the term “two-faced” a whole new meaning of altruism or for the good of all.

In the meantime, brace ourselves for the first PAS PM in Malaysia. – Dec 3, 2023

In the meanwhile, Joceline Tan's column on Sunday is sharing her premonition that Pahang is next to fall. 

Game-changing victory for PAS

The Star Sunday, 03 Dec 2023

THE outcome of the Kemaman by-election was more than just a landslide victory for PAS.

It signalled that Terengganu is no longer a swing state and that it is on the way to becoming the next Kelantan, where PAS is invincible.

It also gave PAS the bragging rights that it now has a prime minister candidate in Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Samsuri Mokhtar, an aerospace engineer who was a lecturer before he joined PAS and went on to become Terengganu Mentri Besar.

“Terengganu is indeed the ‘new Kelantan’. Umno could not produce its own candidate and had to source from outside. What kind of message do you think that sends to the rakyat?” said Terengganu political expert Dr Azmi Omar.

Samsuri, known by all as Dr Sam, beat the Barisan Nasional candidate with a majority of 37,220 votes which was around 10,000 votes more than that in the 2022 general election.

Barisan Nasional had what Umno politician Wan Hakim Wan Mokhtar called the “perfect candidate" in Tan Sri Raja Mohamed Affandi Raja Mohamed Noor, but the retired general could not stop the green wave.

The green wave is yet another signal from the by-election - the wave has not subsided, and if it gathers momentum, Pahang will be the next to fall.

And the fourth signal, according to Wan Hakim, is that elections are no longer about the candidate but the party.

“Tan Sri Affandi was a God-sent candidate, but Kemaman voters ignored his credentials and went for the party,” said Wan Hakim, who was roped in as the campaign manager for Affandi at the 11th hour,

He said that another issue that has refused to go away is that the Malay heartland still rejects the idea of working with DAP.

“They will not swallow it no matter how many times we tell them or how many sessions we have with them. DAP is still an issue in the Malay heartland,” he said.

But at the heart of this killer blow from the Kemaman election result is the issue of Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi.

The Malays, whether from the city or in the kampung, can see that Umno has not changed or reformed. They are unlikely to switch allegiance to Umno for as long as Ahmad Zahid is the Umno president.

It explains why Perikatan leaders do not attack Ahmad Zahid - they want him up there because they know he is good for them.

“Malays have yet to see any convincing reason why they should return to Umno, especially in Terengganu. The economy is hurting them, and they think Umno has compromised and is no longer the voice of the Malays,” said Azmi.

Fortunately, Ahmad Zahid could not campaign because he was recovering from surgery.

But sources said that another big name, Datuk Seri Ahmad Said, an Umno warlord in Kemaman and the former mentri besar, was also kept away from the candidate.

Ahmad has become a liability. A great deal of Umno’s troubles in Terengganu and the dearth of younger talent has to do with Ahmad’s refusal to let go and the way he took down rivals and those who stood in his way.

The by-election also backfired in the face for the unity government, which thought it was scoring points by bringing PAS to the election court after it won the seat in the general election.

They managed to prove that PAS indulged in money politics and broke the election law, but PAS is having the last laugh now.

Former journalist Rosli Zakaria, who lives in Kuala Terengganu, said Umno ought to be thankful that university student voters could not return to vote because of exams otherwise, Umno’s loss would be more crushing.

Both sides, he noted, had credible candidates, but Samsuri is a sitting Mentri Besar and a household name.

“He is different from other PAS politicians. He does not discriminate along party lines, and he has said that he will help all Terengganu people irrespective of their politics,” said Rosli.

Meanwhile, Samsuri, who is also PAS vice-president, has finally made it with the Kemaman win. He was often seen as clinging to the coattails of Tan Sri Hadi Awang, whom he served as political secretary for many years.

Two of Wan Hakim’s sons decided to check out PAS’ finale ceramah rally. They returned home a little shell-shocked to tell their father that it was mammoth, and even the old ladies in the crowd and the stallholders at the edge of the rally were shouting, “Takbir!”

Zaidi Hassan, a Kelantan intellectual, said the PAS leadership used to comprise the ulama and ustaz. But Samsuri will now lead the second-liners of professionals and technocrats who will help balance out the party’s theocratic image.

“Issues raised by PAS in the coming years will expand beyond religion to matters that the average Malaysian can relate to, like abuse of power, transparency and accountability,” said Zaidi.

When the dust settles, Umno needs to ask itself: How many more signals does the party need from the Malays before it takes radical action to reform?

Can changing government put food on the table?

There are those within PKR anticipating the demise of UMNO after GE16. 

Maybe they are excited with the prospect of seeing the falling of their former competitor but currentt Unity Government mega-coalition member or believe it will shift traditional UMNO Malay voters to them.

In the meanwhile, they may be wondering who the two possible PKR MPs willing to switch support in this psywar video being viralled by PN cytro.

Get ready the burger, fries, shake and popcorn as more drama unfold.

If not 168 supporting PMX, it is being prepped up that 5 more MPs from PN will be switching support before year-end and few more including those from PAS early next year. 

Wonder who is concerned with the state of the economy desperately needing the fiscal, economics and institutional reforms coupled with the more important rakyat's livelihood.   

The much hyped Dr. Sam has a doctoral degree in Aeroengine Ignition and Combustion, High Altitude Engine Failure from the School of Mechanical Engineering, University of Leeds, UK.

He has experiance in academia and as Political Secretary to Hadi Awang. Has he solved the low altitude Terenganu economy and overdependence on compassion fuel (wang ihsan) from outer space (federal government)? 

For him being hyped as a soon-to-be PM, will his qualifications and experiance be relevant to lead the nation in governing, reviving the still fragile post-pandemic eonomy in the midst of sluggish regional and global economy, and bring about peace and stability to all Malaysians irrespective of race and religion?

Can the politics and everchanging government put food on the table for rakyat whose struggling since the fall of BN in 2018 to make ends meet?!

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