Umno President elections, Johor and the water crisis

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Picture Credit: Video grab of Razaleigh

The interesting story in Malaysia is the UMNO elections and how it is playing out for the monarchy.

And by extension, it is a story linked with the recent spat between Malaysia and Singapore on the decades-old water deal.

Amid the obvious tug-of-war between the new government headed by Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad and the monarchy, the Umno has adopted the survival of the monarchy as its horse battle.

With the backdrop of the water deal spat being a hot topic across the causeway, the Johor Crown Prince Tunku Ismail Sultan Ibrahim expressed his gratitude to the Republic of Singapore for helping the state during earlier drought seasons.

Many see the comments as taunting. Mahathir’s statement that the water deal with Singapore is ridiculous did not go down well in Singapore.

It did not go down well with the Umno and the wing that is in support of a new president for the party.

“Thank you to the Singaporean Government for helping Johor during the drought seasons and when we had our water crisis,” wrote the crown prince on the Johor Southern Tigers Facebook page on Thursday (June 28) evening.

Jiran dan kawan.Terima kasih diucapkan kepada kerajaan Singapura kerana membantu negeri Johor ketika musim kemarau dan…

Posted by JOHOR Southern Tigers on Thursday, 28 June 2018

At the same time, there is the fight for the top post within the Umno.

Among the candidates, there is a member of the Kelantan Royal family, Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah.

Several Umno warlords are betting on veteran Umno leader and former finance minister to win the leadership battle today.

Some reports say he is in a fierce battle with Khairy Jamaluddin and his presence in the lineup is a sign the party is trying to woo the monarchs for its own salvation.

However, it might be too early to write-off acting president Ahmad Zahid Hamidi.

Zahid has assumed the role of party president since ex-PM Najib Razak resigned as leader following Barisan Nasional’s stunning defeat in the May 9 general election.

Indeed, Razaleigh (better known as Ku Li in the local media) would be the right candidate for the Umno based on the party’s focus on the ‘sentiments’ within Malaysia.

Of royal descent, the Prince from Kelantan known for his intense opposition towards Dr Mahathir – he left Umno after failing to defeat Mahathir in a party poll to create the Semangat 46 – could bring more spark to the opposition. So they say.

The latter is campaigning on a Malay-Royal platform, hoping that he will garner the support of the grassroots.

Some warlords, once kowtowing to Najib, have shifted guns and have ganged in favour of Razaleigh. They believe he will be the right person to lead the party amid the constant tussle between the new administration and the monarchs.

But a survey published yesterday said Zahid is leading in the race for the party’s president post.

The survey done by the Ilham Centre said Razaleigh in close in second place and Khairy is expected to only split votes.

Nevertheless, the battle of wit between the monarchs and the administration has not dampened.

Dr Mahathir did not waste the opportunity to put even more pressure on the monarchs when he replied to the media that his list of new Cabinet ministers is waiting for the Agong’s approval.

Mahathir famously said the “ball in Agong’s court,” when asked about the new ministerial candidate’s list.

Following this statement, the Istana Negara, in a statement on Monday, said the swearing-in ceremony of the ministers and deputy ministers will be held on July 2 at Istana Negara.

“The names of the cabinet ministers have been approved by the Yang di-Pertuan Agong and have been returned to the Prime Minister’s Office on June 22, namely, on Friday.”.

“Istana Negara requests that all parties do not report any matter which is negative and inaccurate involving the Yang di-Pertuan Agong,” said the communique from the Istana.

While this is being ironed out the Umno elections due today will decide who will head the opposition in Malaysia.