Kuala Lumpur — The party was on a winning streak in Peninsula Malaysia, bagging 4 electoral wins in by-elections against the Pakatan Harapan in the absence of its leader, ex-PM Najib Razak’s deputy, Ahmad Zahid Hamidi.
Mr Zahid earlier this week returned as the president of UMNO, after he ended his leave of absence that started last December. He took leave because of multiple investigations on corruption charges. He now faces 87 charges in total.
He says he returned because his Court cases were personal ones not involving his role in the party and he can no longer see the Malays sidelined, “lied to and insulted and treated badly” under the Pakatan.
The former DPM’s return will mean serious implications for UMNO, which has been spearheaded by MP Mohamad Hasan or Mat Hasan, who won big over the ruling Pakatan Harapan (PH) candidate in Negeri Sembilan.
Sources say Zahid’s return may cause an outflow of MP’s from the party because it means sidelining Mat Hasan and reviving rivalry between Zahid’s supporters and those who support Najib’s cousin Hishammuddin Hussein.
The question is how much of the Umno grassroots will back Zahid after he is slapped with an additional 33 charges a mere 48 hours before announcing his return as president of UMNO.
Would they prefer Mr Zahid over Mr Mohamad, or Tok Mat, as he is more commonly known, despite the fact that Tok Mat has worked tirelessly to unite UMNO, with a certain degree of success, and has been able to convince PAS that unity of the two parties would strengthen both?
Or would forcing the party to choose between the two leaders prove to be its undoing?
Mr Zahid has certainly positioned himself as the leader of the party, telling The Star, “Being away for six months is long enough. It is time for me to come back and lead Umno as its president because that is what I have been entrusted to do.
Umno’s struggle must go on, and as president, it is my responsibility to lead the party and hold it together to face challenges. This is the time where we move collectively and together.”
However, his former allegiance with Najib Razak, whose legacy has been tainted by the charges against him, has caused many in UMNO to prefer Mr Hasan over him.
Other observers say that Mr Zahid’s return will push UMNO backward from the steps it has taken under Mr Mohamad. ”/ TISG