KUALA LUMPUR – A battle for control of Umno, sparked by the sudden withdrawal of support for Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin, will decide not just the fate of Malaysia’s grand old party, but also the fortunes of the ruling Perikatan Nasional (PN) pact.
Since backing Tan Sri Muhyiddin’s palace coup in March 2020, Umno has been the most disgruntled of allies, often loudly demanding a bigger share of the spoils as PN’s largest member.
Fast forward 11 months, and scores of Umno divisions have passed resolutions to sever ties with Mr Muhyiddin’s Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (Bersatu). Adding insult to injury, two MPs from the once-dominant party publicly announced that they no longer supported the Premier, leaving him with a minority government.
But Umno president Ahmad Zahid Hamidi’s hopes of beginning 2021 with a sudden reset of the political chessboard by forcing snap polls were dashed, with Mr Muhyiddin effectively gaining immunity after the King assented to his request for emergency powers on Jan 11 to fight an unrelenting surge in Covid-19 cases.